Putting Bad Dreams to Rest
An interesting topic came up at dinner the other night. As we were all sitting at the table, Bug asked Bebe what she was talking about in her sleep the other night. Of course she couldn’t remember but Bug pressed on and kept talking about how she mumbled and tossed and turned.
Bug must have forgotten about how much he used to talk in his sleep when he was younger. His dad and I have vivid memories of him coming to us, teary-eyed and begging to sleep with us over a bad dream or listening to him talk to cartoon characters in a sleepy whisper.
Scientists know now that even newborns dream and as they get older and their speech develops, we parents get let in on their world of dreams. But not all dreams are good ones, my sister suffered from night terrors for years and even my husband recalls having horrible dreams to this day. Even I remember a dream about a scary woman in a white robe coming to my grandmother’s apartment and… that’s as much as I need to remember.
It can be difficult for us to try and fight off the night time terrors and the bad dreams of our children. We often don’t know what we’re fighting; only that our children are petrified by something when they close
their eyes at night to sleep.
Dreams are generally an extension of our waking life. In our dreams we may act out what our conscious won’t let us in our waking life. It can be a relief but it can also be scary. If bad dreams persist with your child then it might be time to do some investigative work to find out if they’re experiencing some difficulty or trouble somewhere. Problems at school, with teachers, friends, and even family changes can all manifest in our dreams.
However, dreams can often be a result of a physiological change as well. Children who are going through growth spurts may experience more vivid or realistic dreams, including bad dreams. It’s important to note that most kids do outgrow bad dreams.
At some point nearly every child will have a bad dream or a nightmare and just as they are rudely awakened by it; so will you. Unfortunately there isn’t a sure fire or even one way to help put your child’s bad dreams to rest. However, there are several things you can do to help your child work through the dreams they are having so everyone can rest easier.
Limit Scary Movies and Television - Whenever possible, I try to prevent the bad dreams from even coming in the first place. The kids aren’t allowed to watch or read anything “scary” before bed. Now we’re pretty good at limiting these kinds of things in general but it definitely helps to limit this kind of television viewing right before bed.
Talk it Out – If your child is pretty awake and shook up from their dream, let them tell you about it. Really. Listen. Don’t interrupt or doubt them if they tell you something outrageous (ask me about the dragon slayer who looked like my dad and the donut shop I visited while he slayed the dragons sometime) because even the outrageous is important to them. It doesn’t have to make sense but just like adults, even kids need to tell their story.
I’ll admit that when it’s in the middle of the night, the last thing I want to do is get up and check for scary things. I’ll often let whoever is having the bad dream climb in bed and sleep with me. I realize that this isn’t an option for every parent and it’s not something that you want to turn in to a habit but having mom or dad close to you while you sleep, can often make a child, especially a young child feel comforted and safe from bad dreams.
It’s far easier for adults to wake up from a dream and understand that what happened wasn’t real. We can compartmentalize the dream quickly and often fall back asleep with no problems. Children aren't able to do this because a dream still feels real to them and bad dreams can be very terrifying.
What you do to combat bad dreams is ultimately up to you; patience and understanding are important skills in helping kids cope with bad dreams. Dismissing their fears and bad dreams can cause your child more emotional pain and stress than necessary.
What tactics do you use to soothe your child when they have a bad dream? Share your tips for combating bad dreams in the comments!