How To Help Your Child Sleep Without Nightmares.
by Susie E. Caron c.4/22/2014
Parents and kids often ask what they can do to stop nightmares. There is an unbelievably simple solution. It worked for my own children and it has resolved the issue for others as well. If I told you how incredibly successful this remedy has been, you wouldn't believe it. So practice this yourself and see how well it works.
Nightmares or Night Terrors?
Before I reveal the easy solution, I want to clear up the difference between nightmares (bad dreams) and night terrors. Bad dreams (nightmares) occur while your child sleeps. However, when the child awakens he/she is aware of the bad dream and the accompanying fright or sadness. The child will often be able to tell you about the bad dream and is likely to remember it the next day.
In a night terror, (mostly frightening to parents) the child appears awake but is in fact still caught in the terror and action of the dream. You will not be able to awaken the child as the 'dream' continues, even while you spend time reassuring the child that it was just a dream. The child cannot tell you what the terror is about and doesn't remember anything about the experience
the next day.
Although there is not much you can do about night terrors, kids usually outgrow them around 4-5 years of age. I did have some measured success with my daughter who awakened me with her terrifying screams. I'd scoop her up and carry her to the bathroom mirror. There I pointed to her then to me in our reflections and back and forth while saying "See Mommie, See Kim" over and over. This was my attempt to try to pull her out of the night terror. When I saw she awakened and recognized me, but looked surprised to find herself in the bathroom, I was able to put her back to bed. She didn't remember the experience that night or the next day.
Night Mares (Bad Dreams)
Bad dreams are easier to handle. Here are two simple tactics that work very well for both children and adults. Be sure to teach these to you child during the day and then remind him/her to practice, just before going to bed.
When Your Child Awakes during a Nightmare.
1.Before your child awakes following a bad dream, teach your child to remember everything about the dream using all 5 senses. You can use any of their nightmares to practice this.
a. Ask what did you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Get as much detail as possible.
b. Agree with your child that it was indeed a very scary (or sad) dream.
c. Then explain that the child can exercise control over their dreams good and bad because the dream happens in their own brain. They need only to think and choose how to end this bad dream differently.
d. Ask you child "What would you like this dream to change into?" Then ask for details using all 5 senses again. Your child can then be told to go back to sleep and dream what he/she just made up. (Caution: this works best if your child comes up with his/her own ideas to change anything including the endings. Try not to make suggestions.) Children tend to
engage in magical thinking to change their dreams. This is ok as it is developmentally
Before Your Child Falls Asleep
2. After you explain the above and practice once using a remembered nightmare, tell your child you have more good news. Your child can even decide before going to sleep what he/she wants to dream about. This is done by thinking of something they want to dream about and describing it in as much detail as they can, using all five senses. Ask what do you want to see, hear, smell, taste and feel in your dream tonight.Then they can fall asleep focused on dreaming something wonderful and fun. Children often feel better and in more control as they are quickly able to do this pre-sleep routine for themselves.
Why Does This Work?
All dreams originate for many reasons. However, they usually carry emotional content. The center in our brains for emotional content and memories is also the area for sensory input. These three are all located in the mid brain. That's why by engaging our senses to develop new content we also create new memories from which to create good dreams.Thus we can change bad dreams into good ones. Children and adults really love discovering they can exercise control over their own brains and they can begin with their dreams.
One final note on results:
Although I cannot guarantee this will work for everyone, I have taught these two steps to children and their parents for the past 30+ years. A week or so afterwards, I ask children what "How are your dreams?" Children frequently reported one of the following:
"Oh I didn't have any dreams."
"What you told me...that works."
"Every night before I go to sleep I decide what I want to dream about and that takes care of it."
Sweet Dreams and Happy Sleeping.
Twee' Means You and Me.
Susie E. Caron
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!