For the first time for as long as I can remember my son took a nap! He got a nap time, I caught up on all my TV shows and my big stack of laundry! It was amazing.
That is, until he woke up.
He started screaming, “I WANT TO BE AWAKE!”
He ran into the living room, with his hair standing straight up looking a bit like a mad scientist. His temper tantrum continued with him yelling “I WANT TO TAKE ANOTHER NAP,” while running back to his room.
After a few laps between the bedroom and living room I finally stopped him saying, “Sweetie, what is wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”
He responded, “I did.”
“Do you remember what it was about?”
I told him to give me a hug and tell me what happened. With his little arms around my neck he explained, “A scary guy came and he was big, big, big.”
My heart was broken as he explained how he wanted to check around the room for this scary guy. I explained dreams are not real. After a possibly too long explanation, he responded, “The scary guy’s in my head?” Oops – I may have explained it wrong to a two-year-old because that sounds terrifying.
We talked about it a little more until he finally, at least partially, understood the dream wasn’t real. He brought it up a few other times – and like he does with dinosaurs – said “that isn’t real.”
As a child I remember my mom telling me to make bad dreams, good dreams. It may be a few years until my son can understand the concept, but it helped me a lot as a 6-year-old.
One nightmare that is still incredibly vivid, involved my infant brother crawling into the Bonneville Dam (thank you school field trips in Portland) and drowning. I woke up in a panic, but quickly turned it into a good dream, involving my Dad jumping in to save him and finding treasure while down there (thank you Little Mermaid).
Here are some other tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
-Assure your child you are there and will not let anything harm him/her
-Encourage them to tell you what happened in the dream. Remind him/her dreams are not real.
-Allow him/her to keep a light on (if it makes them feel better)
-Once your child is ready, encourage her to go back to sleep
-If there’s something like a shadow scaring your child, make sure it’s gone
While I am proud of getting number two right on the first nightmare, I have to hand it over to my mom – who must have done some heavy parenting reading on how to handle my nightmares!
How do you handle them?