Nightmares and night terrors are a significant issue for many people. Not only their own, but for their children. I'd like to share some tips on dealing with our subconscious dreams that have worked for me and my children over the years.
Reprogramming the dream. As a child, I woke up in sweats from horrible night terrors. One brought on by a friend because my black kitten jumped in her lap. She ran out the glass sliding door screaming because black cats were bad luck. The glass slider slammed and fell off the track over wooden steps. That night, at 6 years old, I had my first night terror of pirates killing my family. And they'd gotten in through the broken door!
That dream recurred several times over my childhood. The same dream. The same fears. I began fighting it. I'd force a new dream. That didn't work but had some solace. So I tried taking the old dream and spinning a new ending in my waking mind.
I learned how to put new images in my mind and redream the dream over the years. It changed and morphed until finally succumbing to the new scenes. As I entered my adulthood, I became so good at it that I could begin reprogramming the dream before fully awake. I do that still to this day.
Comfort. Everyone has a bad dream. But when a child wakes crying or screaming from it, they need help learning the skill to reprogram. I began working with my kiddos as they woke. I'd ask them to tell me about the dream and then I'd help them think how to change it into something pleasant. I never said it didn't matter. I also never told them to just go back to sleep. I'd hold them, calm them and then start telling the dream back to the kiddo with that child as the hero combating whatever they feared in the dream. I'd give them tools or weapons in their dream world. It's really a case of using your imagination until theirs takes over.
Recognizing key stress times. Being aware of events that cause a fearful reaction can help too. If your child is expressing fear verbally, help them talk it out well before bedtime. Then come up with some fun, fanciful things to dream about as you tuck them in. Stay a few minutes after lights out. Chat about those fanciful ideas and then walk out leaving the little one to muse. Use children's books or make up your own. Put the child into the story. Now if he wakes up with a bad dream, you can easily slip back into that story too or weave it into the dream to help overcome the fears. Make sure your child becomes the lead character. It fuels the imagination into overcoming the obstacle they fear.
Music. Sing! If you really can't sing, there are tons of great CD's. Let your child help pick it out. Make it an adventure.
Speaking of adventures, check out Adventure in Odyssey stories on tape or CD. You can get them from Focus on the Family online. We love these fun stories with unique voices. (Truthfully, I'm excited to start on the next generation with these fun adventures!)
Hopefully this helps :-)