Raise your hand if you have a toddler and/or preschooler who has starting having scary dreams? Our children’s imagination a wonderful & amazing thing but it can wreak havoc on nighttime sleep! Many times our children see something during the day that they replay in their minds at night. So whether the saw something on TV or in a book, you may often hear that they “saw” that same thing in their dream. There are definitely things we can do as parents to help ease these fears and restore a good night’s sleep.
- Acknowledge the fears. We want to take some time to acknowledge and validate their feelings. You might want to say “Wow, that does sounds scary!” or “Yikes, that would scare me too!”.
- Turn their imagination around! Avoid helping them look for monsters or checking under the bed. We do not want to reinforce these fears. Instead, help them turn their imagination toward something that makes them happy. Remind them how AMAZING our imagination is and that we have the ability to change our thoughts when we want to. Get your child to tell you something that makes them happy or excited. Spend some time visualizing this activity or item with your child. Really bring it to life! Remind them they can think this “happy thought” any time they want to, even when those scary thoughts creep in.
- Share your experiences. Sometimes, we see things in real life that scare us. Maybe your child saw something on the news? Don’t spend too much time over explaining the event. Instead, share something that you were afraid of as a child. Spend a lot of time describing how you felt. Let your child how you were able to overcome those thoughts.
My son started experiencing consistent “nightmares” around 3 years of age. He would wake 3-4 times a week and come into our room to tell us he had a “nightmare”. Most of the time, he would dream about something he saw on TV or his tablet that day. We spent some time talking about his fears and how he could turn his thoughts around. One night we “built” a whole city made of cotton candy in our imagination!
We also found this great product that has really reinforced our discussions that he is in charge! It’s the “Sleeper Hero“. It’s the cutest thing ever. It’s a story book, a doll, an ok to wake clock all in one! The story book talks of a little boy named, Luke, who struggles with bedtime fears and staying in bed. Enter the super hero doll! It’s a super special Sleeper Hero doll that stays with him all night when he gets scared. It even has a light on its chest to “protect” him and teaches him when it’s okay to get out of bed in the morning.
My son LOVES this doll! Seriously. He’s so cute. You can set the time on the doll so that at a certain time at night the red light comes on and then when it’s ok to wake up the green light comes on. Sometimes, even we get a little off schedule and get to bed later than planned. He immediately goes to get his doll to show me that he is up past his bedtime (red light is on). The Sleeper Hero doll coupled with our discussions about his fears have been a game changer!