If I should wake up in the middle of the night with a bad dream and yell out, please come running to me and hold me and comfort me. Don't ignore me and let me cry it out--I need you so much right now.
Turn on a light, take me in your arms and hold me, and tell me how everything will be all right. Listen to me sincerely, and hold me tightly. If I'm terribly upset, take me out of the room so I can try to forget about the bad dream as soon as possible. You might even try taking me to the potty, because sometimes the urge for me to go pee-pee can set up a bad dream.
Keep hugging and loving me and tell me it was just a bad
dream and those dreams don't come true. Depending
on what the dream was about, please try and reassure me
those things won't happen. For example, if I dreamed
about lions or tigers or snakes or
alligators, tell me how far away these animals live in the jungle, and there's no way they can get to me. And as a young toddler, if you take me to a zoo, please don't let me see the really scary animals, like lions, tigers, alligators, and snakes. It's best to just take me to a child's petting zoo, until I'm a little older. Also, remind me that the doors are all closed and locked, so nothing can get inside, not even a little rabbit or squirrel. Please do whatever you can do to convince me that my dream won't come true--and keep holding me and loving me as you talk to me.
After I have calmed down, you can try to take me back to my bedroom, but if I am still upset and don't want to sleep there, please don't make me. Take me to another bedroom, even if it's your bedroom. I need a lot of holding right now, and I need to feel safe. You make me feel safe, because I believe in you and I trust you.
Bad dreams can come from many sources:
Television - There are so many scary and violent shows on television now. So many people die on TV now, and I am very afraid of you dying or anybody in my family dying. Please don't let me see scary cartoons, and don't leave your grown-up TV shows on, even the evening news--all of that is so believable to me, and I can certainly have a bad dream about whatever I see or hear. The best shows for me are on the children's television networks.
Videos - Until I am about 6 or 7 years old, I do not know the difference between fantasy and reality. Most movies are just not appropriate for me right now. I really like "sing-along" movies, like the Wee-Sing videos; and anything with real children singing and dancing in it is so much fun for me too. Like television, if a video has something scary or violent in it, I think it is real and it can come true.
Books - Like videos and television, there can be scary books as well. Please read to me books that are right for my age--the librarian can help you, or someone at the bookstore in the children's section. Just make sure they're happy books.
Preschool/Daycare - Naturally, other children that I
play with can tell me things that may frighten me, so
please try to spend a lot of time with me before I go to
bed and ask me about my day--what I liked best;
what I liked worst; and so on. Find out who I
played with and what we did. Ask about the kids in my class,
too, because someone else might have said something.
Really try to search out
anything that could be causing me to feel unsafe, scared, or sad. I need you to understand all the feelings I have had today that might cause me to have a bad dream or worry unnecessarily.
In general, you should preview any books or videos before I see them, and please sit with me if you have television on, so you can turn it off if the information is violent or scary.
Here are some tips for you right before I go to bed:
1. Don't let me watch any TV or videos right before bedtime--let
me play, color or read books.
2. Read stories to me that are sweet and kind and will make me feel happy and safe.
3. Say night prayers with me, and reassure me how safe and loved I am.
4. Play nice, soft music or lullabies for me.
5. After I fall asleep, move my dolls, stuffed animals, or whatever I fell asleep with,
away from me, so I don't accidentally roll over on them and wake up.
I will generally have more dreams during my toddler years, and almost anything can cause me to have a bad dream. The best thing you can do is try to eliminate as many things that could possibly cause the bad dream. And then if I do have one, please don't ignore me or get upset with me. That will only scare me more. I don't know it's the middle of the night; I don't know how tired you must be; I just know I'm scared and I need my Mommy and Daddy.
Come to me quickly and lovingly--hold me tight--and try to understand how scared I am.
Put yourself in my place and just love me with all your
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lisel Fahl Perselay, Biographical Sketch
As a new mother, Lisel Perselay attended various parent education courses offered by Overlook Hospital's Parentcraft Division, in Summit, NJ, as well as their Mother's Exchange Program, which she highly recommends. When these articles were published she was a veteran "working mom" with AT&T Corporation. She was also a member of The Mother's Center of Central New Jersey and the Westfield Day Care Center Auxiliary. Lisel has a Masters in Business Administration. She and her husband and their children have resided in the Westfield/Mountainside area for 12 years.