Has your child ever woken up in a panic? Crying, shaking, sweating, maybe even screaming? Do they have a hard time getting back to sleep afterward? While it’s easy to see why they wouldn’t be able to sleep after a nightmare, there are ways that we can help children resolve what’s happened in the dream, and increase their chances of getting back to a peaceful sleep.
There are a few ways to help resolve scary dreams, but it’s best to also be mindful that there may be something underlying the dreams in the first place. It may be important to seek help from professionals if recurrent nightmares are a significant problem for you children, and/or if it is causing them any type of distress or impairment in daily functioning.
Help Kids Get Back to Sleep After a Nightmare
One great way that we can help children to resolve scary dreams is called rescripting. This essentially means coming up with a new ending; here’s how to do it:
Children have fantastic imaginations that we can take advantage of in helping them overcome scary dreams. For these instructions, we will pretend we have a child who’s woken up in the middle of the night, but you can also help kids work through their dreams during the day.
Have the child describe the dream for you. Ask questions like: Where did it start? What happened? Who was there? Where was it? How did it end? Then, you can encourage your child to come up with some kind of super power, spell, ability, or something of the like, with which they can end the dream in a different way. Maybe it’s a magic wand, ‘the force’ from Star Wars, or maybe they bring along a friend with super powers, whatever your child can imagine!
For example, maybe a child could use a magical wand to trap monsters in an impenetrable bubble.
If your child likes finds it difficult to describe the dream in words, art may be helpful in rescripting. Let them draw out there alternate ending. Maybe you could even keep some pencil crayons and paper beside your child’s bed.
Note, it is best to guide children in using nonviolent means to resolve their fantasies, as the skills they learn in doing this can transfer to resolving conflicts in real life as well.
And of course, you will finish it all off with a great big hug and kiss, and reassure them that the for the rest of the night they can sleep peacefully, knowing that they have that impenetrable bubble any time they need.
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