H has recently started having bad dreams. We were already having nighttime needy issues due to jealousy over Baby C2, but after I traveled a few days for work it took a turn for the worse. Everything he said and did before bedtime screamed “Don’t leave me.” It broke my heart.
I can tell H has had a nightmare because of the way that he holds onto my neck so tightly he almost chokes me. He doesn’t want me to let him go. I always ask him if he had a bad dream or what is wrong. Normally these questions are met with stone cold silence. Last night, however, his silence broke.
Me: While rocking H I asked, “Did you have a bad dream?”
H: Pulls back, looks right at me and announces in a very serious voice, “Bears outside.”
He dreamed that there were bears outside of our house. Bless his sweet, loving heart. Bears outside would be scary. I melted. It was the first time he had been able to adequately tell me what was upsetting him.
Now I knew what was wrong, but the question was how I was I going to help make him feel better.
I don’t have all the answers, but in my sleep deprived state these were the three things I did that seemed to make a difference.
- Facts – I used facts to reassure him that he did not have to worry about bears. I explained that bears don’t live here and that there were no bears outside. We even looked out his window so he could see that there weren’t any bears in the front yard.
- Small phrases – I tried to phrase my words similar to his announcement. By keeping the thought simple I was able to make him understand more easily. I also kept repeating it. H, picked up on the repetition and begin saying it himself every few minutes “No bears.” This became a mantra that he used to reassure himself.
- Comfort – I comforted him by holding him and I let him tell me when he was done being held. He was legitimately terrified and right or wrong I wasn’t going to put a terrified child back into their bed to cry it out. So I held him.
This morning I asked him again about his dream. I said, “Did you have a bad dream?” No response. I repeated myself, but this time I said “Did you dream about bears?” His eyes got big and he said, “Yes!” I explained that it was just a bad dream and that when we sleep we see pictures in our heads, but they are not real. Then I repeated our mantra. “There are no bears.” “No bears,” H said.
How do you deal with nightmares? What do you do that helps your child cope?
Peace, Love and No Bears,