Thursday, May 31, 2012
Children's Bad Dreams
(image from madmikesamerica.com)
One of my daughters has a nightmare almost every night. It is not a reoccurring dream (the characters and details vary) but they always seem to have the theme of being chased or watching a family member being captured. When she relays the dreams to me I can agree that they are scary - they'd scare me! The villians are often men - old men, police men, robbers- but the other night she had a dream about a giant rooster.
Dreams about being chased ( by a giant rooster or otherwise) usually refer to feeling the need to escape a real life situation or feeling anxiety or fear about something. For children, chasing dreams are common; they are a way of coping with the stresses and unfamiliarity that they confront in life. Stressors like tension in the home or school issues can be triggers for these dreams. Interestingly, monsters in dreams can represent people in the child's life.
Bad dreams, however,are not necessarily a bad thing. Researchers in Finland have proposed that nightmares help us, and especially children, to prepare for real life situations. Interestingly, childhood's earliest dreams mirror those of our earlier ancestors when they dreamt of being chased by wild animals. Understanding this fact can help us to put nightmares into perspective and appreciate the role that they have in our waking life.
Helping my daughter cope with these dreams is an ongoing battle but I have come across some ideas that seem to help:
1) talking through her worries during the day
2) praying before bed for good dreams and protection
3) eating less sugar and chemical ridden food (this suggestion was given to me by a Chinese herbalist)
4) writing down her dreams in a journal
5) confronting what is chasing her in her dreams (Robert Moss suggests that then the "monster" will back off or change to more manageable proportions)
Robert Moss, in his helpful book, Active Dreaming, has some other suggestions for helping children through their nightmares such as drawing a picture, acting out the dream or thinking of a "dream companion" (such as a stuffy or icon like Jesus or the Incredible Hulk) that can help them out in the dream.
Let me know if you have come across any other solutions.