Dealing with Nightmares and Things that Go “Bump!”
When a loved one has died, it is common for children in the family to have more nightmares, and feel more fear of scary things that go “bump!” in the night.
Here are some ideas for helping your child feel more soothed and less scared, particularly at nighttime:
- “Change the story”
A frightening nightmare has left your child upset and afraid. Talk with them about what happened in the nightmare, and together change the ending of the dream. After your child tells the story of what happened, remind them that since this is their dream, in their imagination, they can change the ending anyway they want! Perhaps the monster that chased them and gobbled them up was actually running to the grocery store to pick up grapes—they were late for the monster banquet. And anyway, monsters are all vegetarians, didn’t you know? You might make the ending silly, so the tears change into laughter.
- Make “Monster Spray”
Create a mixture in a spray bottle intended to be “monster repellant” or “nightmare repellant” for the child to spray at times that are causing fear. This mixture can contain anything: water, beads, flowers, essential oils—any objects/liquids intended to represent protection. Create the mixture together and have the child spray the mixture as-needed.
The idea behind these activities is to help your child feel empowered rather than out of control in the world. Working together on projects like these also shows your child that you are there to help when they feel afraid.