Dreams can be wonderful and downright terrifying! It can be very difficult to explain to children that dreams are not real. Even as adults sometimes it can be very hard to shake off a bad dream.
First lets, chat about what a dream is
Dreams are thoughts that occur during periods of sleep. According to William C. Dement, MD., Ph.D., and author of “The Promise of Sleep”, we dream during all stages of sleep; however, we recall more dreams during the REM stage of sleep.
Our children will be able to recall some of their dreams and may have a hard time understanding that they are not real. The best thing for us to do is to explain what dreams are in a calm manner at a time not associated with sleep.
How can you explain a dream to a child?
Children are very concrete thinkers who respond well to simple and clear statements. A good way for you to explain a dream to your child is to tell them that a dream is a story your brain tells while you sleep. You can explain that these stories are not real but can feel real.
How can you teach your child to cope with dreaming?
1. Empathize with your child
2. Remind your child the dream was a story while he slept
3. Let your child talk about the dream
4. Teach your child to take a deep breath and to think about something different using meditations.
- A basic meditation would be to have your child sit or lay down then have them imagine that their feet feel very heavy, then move the heavy feeling to various body parts of their body and you can head with their head.
- There are a number of apps that help with Guided meditations. One good one we use is Insight Timer.
- You can also get a number of books that are meditations or teach children how to meditate. The follow are my favourite:
- Stress Free Kids has a number of audiobooks. Our favourite is Indigo Dreams
- Sitting Still Like a Frog Mindfulness Exercises for kids (and their Parents)
5. If your child is struggling with their dreams you can try making or purchasing a Dream Catcher. A Dream Catcher is a Native American tradition where a catcher is placed above a child’s bed. Then you explain that the Dream Catcher will catch all her dreams and pass the good dreams on to her.
In my experience, a child seems to be better able to cope with and understand their dreams closer to 4 years of age. This is when the fun begins and children may love to fall asleep so they can dream!
Please feel free to send me a message or start a discussion in the form area regarding your child’s dreams.