Listen when children talk about dreams

Published 7:31 am Sunday, April 12, 2015

QUESTION: My children, who are typical kids, are talking about their nightmares.  Is there something useful to say to them?

ANSWER: Tragic experiences can cause frightening, repetitive nightmares.

However, in general, normal worries and stressors of life cause nightmares, too.  The developing brains of 6- to 12-year-olds are discerning the complexities of life and their confusion and anxieties often surface in their dreams.

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It helped me when my dad told me that if something was chasing me in my dreams, I could tell myself, before I went to sleep, that I was going to stop running and turn around to confront it.  It worked for me.

It might be helpful to share those dreams. Even nightmares, can be our minds helping us process current problems. Apparently Elias Howe had spent years trying to develop his sewing machine and he was failing.  Then one night he dreamed that if he didn��t invent the machine within twenty-four hours, cannibals would eat him.

In the dream he failed to meet the deadline and the cannibals descended, wielding sharp spears.  In the tip of each spear was a hole.  Howe woke up sweating. Then he realized he had his solution; he would put a hole in the bottom end of the needle, just like the spears.

Supportive parents are not able to fix all the problems of childhood.  However, we can listen carefully and provide insights from our own life experiences and acquired knowledge.  “It’s normal” and “You’re a capable kid” are important messages for children to hear from important adults in their lives.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  Check out and free resources at the Parenting Resource Center Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).