Putting your child to bed at night is usually especially satisfying. You have spent a long day keeping her busy and hopefully teaching her about life. Tucking her in and reading her a story to complete the day is something most parents look forward to completing. Many times we finish off the day by wishing that she might have pleasant dreams.
We know that children dream and unfortunately young children and even toddlers have nightmares. Children of this young age have difficulty separating what is real from what is not. Her imagination might be so great that you will even have difficulty convincing her that the monsters or fierce dogs are not real. So what do you do?
There are some things you can do that really can help.
• Reassure her when she tells you about a bad dream that it is a dream.
• Help her have less stress in her life. Think about what she is watching on television or games she is playing that causes her stress especially right before bedtime.
• Avoid reading scary bedtime stories. Some are really quite frightening and may be the kind you do not want to read even in the middle of the day.
• Keep her bedtime routine the same. Make sure it is very soothing and relaxing.
• Don’t let her roughhouse with a sibling or her father just before she goes to bed. She isn’t as likely to do this with her mom who needs a rest.
• Avoid mentioning scary things or things that might scare her.
Encourage her to share her bad dreams with you; sometimes it helps. If she is young and doesn’t have a lot of words, help her. If she says “bear” ask if the bear was scary. Certainly don’t ask if the bear was trying to eat someone because that might make it even scarier. You might not want to talk about bed bugs biting when you say the sleep tight rhyme. The Spanish saying about “May you sleep with little angels” might be a better way to say good night
Thefinal lines of the poem “If I Had My Child To Raise All Over Again” by Diane Loomans helps us focus on the more important ways to raise our children:
” … I would build self-esteem first and the house later.
I would teach less about the love of power
And more about the power of love.”
We all can look a little bit more positively about ways to raise our children.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.