Battling Monster Fears 101
We have had a nightly visitor this week. She crawls into our bed, settles between us and says sleepily: "I've had a bad dream."
I can live with that part (in fact, I enjoy it). The problem is when I put her to bed and she says that as soon as she closes her eyes she can see the monster of her dreams waiting to come get her.
This article by Alyson Schafer, one of my favourite parenting experts, came at the right time. She gives three things to do to give your child a feeling of control over her dreams.
First off, do not humour her fear and check under the bed, spray anti-monster spray and other pro-monster approaches. Alyson says this will validate her fears. This advice was the exact opposite of what I had read other places, which was to play along as if montsers exist and therefore not be dismissive of your kid's issues. In fact, we have put up signs, and made some of her dolls part of the anti-monster brigade. So jury's out for me on that tip. (Sorry, Alyson!)
Tell her that when she begins thinking monster thoughts, she can block them out. Demonstrate this by blowing some bubbles from a bubble wand. Ask her to smack each bubble, and say, “No — I am not thinking about monsters!” It’s a one-time teaching tool that gives her a sense of control. When she’s alone in bed and her mind wanders to thoughts of scary things, she can “fight off” these thoughts because she’s acted this out physically with the bubbles.
To me, that seems to be addressing the real fear, which is a lack of control. Love it; will try it.
The other steps (actually the first and third) that Alyson describes are something we have been working on, not just with my 6-year-old, but also with my other two kids as well. It is sort of like mindfulness training and seems like a great antidote to anxiety.
I have my daughter think of a happy experience - like the beach - and we try and remember how all of our senses felt - what the sand felt like under our toes, the wind, the smell and how we felt at the beach. (In my daughter's case it is extreme happiness; in my case, it's more like mild anxiousness, sticky hot and a little itchy but that isn't what I tell her.) We try and take a mental picture of this happy situation for later use.
Then when the monster comes prowling, I tell her to squish the monster and replace that thought with her happy mental picture of the beach. There is some Princess vanquishing action on a beach as well, but you get the idea.
All of these exercises give a sense of control and teach valuable lessons for the future when worries and anxieties more real than monsters come creeping in the middle of the night.
How do you deal with nightmares? Do you have any tricks? Do you have some spare monster spray available?
Want more chaos? Last year, I made the discovery that Nutella is a healthy breakfast and someone is suing them for false advertising!