My child is 3. Sometimes he has nightmares. What's a good technique to help him deal with these, both at the time when he wakes, and long term to help him overcome them?
(He's not having night terrors!)
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It looks like Kari Gunnarsson has about half of what my answer would be in a really fun way. Put simply - teach your child he can control his dreams once he knows it is a dream! Best advice I was ever given as a child myself too!
I would Add a couple more things though too.
If there is something specific in the dreams that are scary and your child can identify that scary thing, you can help him reason through why that thing isn't so scary. For example, when I was a child I had a lot of nightmares about crocodiles for some reason. My parents were able to establish there weren't any crocodiles living anywhere near us so the very real fear was not applicable to my bedroom or anywhere else I frequented.
Check the room for "scary shadows." Imaginations can run wild once the lights go out. Is the monster in the corner that rears its head in his dreams really dirty laundry stacked on a chair? Have him play with shadows a bit and make it fun. Jewel has a great song on her children's album, The Merry Goes Round, called, "Only Shadows" that might apply.
If he is having the same nightmare over and over again, have him draw his nightmares and then have a ceremony that helps him be "rid" of them. He can draw his nightmare and then tear up the picture and throw it out, or throw it in the fireplace. And/Or If he is "stuck" in his repeating nightmare with the same problem (say he is trapped at the end of a hallway with something chasing him) have him problem solve a solution to the problem. Perhaps he'd like to grow superperson sucker hands and suction cup climb his way up onto the cieling and back past the monster that can only run on the floor - or fly out of the situation or . . . ) Then, if he has the recurring dream again - he has a plan for his special wishing rock to get out of the dream. Both of these techniques can help the mind to "clense" itself of the fearful thought at the root of the nightmare.
Also, for your sake, know that this too, shall pass. Even if none of the techniques work right away, kids come out of these things and everyone will start getting their rest again soon.
One of my nannies used a trick on me and I have used it since then and it has worked well.
She put her hand in her pocket and handed me an imagined object, an invisible wish stone. And she then told me that I would always have this wish stone with me when I was dreaming. And I could wish for anything and it would happen in the dream. I could even use it to fly. I have had such an adventure with my dream worlds sins this time as I was handed some control that I could actively use in the dream.
Also I was able to test if the thing I was experiencing was a dream by wishing for the ability to fly, and if I would fly then I would know it to be a dream and I could then relax and use my wishing power to make something fun with the dream.
I have always given a child a part of my wish stone whenever a child talks with me about his or her dreams.