I recently took part in an online discussion about dealing with child’s nightmares. I have shared the solution that worked for my daughter. It worked when she was about two and recently, around her 6th birthday.
- When she was 2 she was dreaming about “a tall man looking inside her room from outside”. It didn’t matter she had blinds that were closed every night. She knew he was there. Given that we lived on a 2nd floor (3rd if your “ground floor” is referred to as “first”) this must have been a one tall guy!
- More recently her dreams were about some creature that was rather ugly (can’t remember what it was exactly).
Since in both cases the dreams were bad enough for her to wake up or cry in the night, and in case of the first one it was happening for several days in a row, something needed to be done. Of course, there are many reasons and factors to consider. Of course, the idea I am about to share is not a magic cure for every nightmare of every child. But it worked for us, and it is gentle enough to give it a go if your child is having bad dreams. If it won’t solve the issue, there are other lessons embeded in it.
When choosing my solution, I decided that:
- it needs to acknowledge child’s fear not dismiss or mock it,
- it has to respectful towards the “monsters” – as the way we would treat them also teaches a lesson about building relationships with (real) people,
- it is to be emapthetic – as this is a skill that is worth practicing, and this seemed to be perfect occasions
- it is to be assertive – so that we are clear in our expectations towards the “monsters” and we can expressed them explicitly (like empathy, assertiveness is worth teaching and practicing) .
So we wrote letters.
Addressed to the “monsters”.
The first letter spoke about my daughter being scared of the “tall man” and requesting him to not come any more. And since the recipient was tall, we left the letter above door frame, so he could not miss it.
The second one thanked the “monster” for the visit, and mentioned late hours as not appropriate and causing disturbance. And it also offered for the monster to stay in guest room if he needs to sleep. There was a map to the guest room attached. The letter was left at the night table, so the “monster” could find it easily.
Did I mention that both letters were prepared by my daughter herself? Both – recently, a and when she was 2. Letters and handwriting didn’t matter as much as fact of having dealt with the issue herself. And you know what – the monsters never came back. At least not the ones who received the letters. Of course, some bad dreams happen, of course, they will happen. But we have our secret way of dealing with them.