Do your children struggle with bad dreams or night terrors? We asked current foster, kinship and adoptive parents how they help their children feel better on bad nights. Here is the advice they shared:
“One of mine has night terrors more so than nightmares. We do not ever try to wake him up. We get him back to bed and speak quietly and try to reassure him. ‘Hey Buddy, let’s lay down. You’re in your bed and Auntie is here.’ Ninety-nine percent of the time he’s ‘talking’ about something – sometimes I can understand him but most of the time not. If I can, I try to ask him about it, more so trying to figure out what has upset him than trying to have a conversation.”
“We talk about things that are real: we can hear the crickets and fan. We can touch the soft blanket. We can see the nightlight….
Then we talk about how safe they are in our home with Dad down the hall, siblings in their own beds, dogs to alert us of anyone coming to visit, doors that are locked….
Then we talk about the good things we can dream about. They usually say cupcakes and unicorns and kittens.
The next morning we discuss the bad dream (we don’t call it nightmare because even that sounds scary) and what it might mean. Were they worried they were alone? Were they worried they (or someone they loved) would be hurt? We always wait until daylight to discuss the negative.”
“We sing together. It’s a great refocus and connection tool that really works for my littles.”
“I usually bring them into the living room, just for a change of scenery, keep the lights low and read them a few stories. I’m trying to keep it a calm, sleepy environment while getting their mind on something else. Some kids, especially little ones will fall back asleep on the couch reading stories. Depending on the kid I will leave them there to sleep or carry them back to their bed. If they are still awake I will go with them to their room after a few minutes and rub their back while they fall back asleep.
I do not ask them ‘what happened’ or really mention the dream at all because in that moment I don’t want them to think about it. I want their mind to get off of it, thinking about something else, and going back to sleep. If the child remembers in the morning and wants to talk about their dream I will talk about it with them then.”
“For my littles I would go into their room, sit on the floor and say softly ‘it’s OK, you’re safe,’ and rub their back or pat it.”
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