Nightmares: Help for Older Children

If you missed the first post in this series, you might want to go back and read it to get a background for where we are headed in this one. Also, if you have young children, you will find ideas in that first post to help them specifically.

Moving on this week to older children…

Nightmares-Help your Older child

As my children, and especially my oldest daughter, grew up some, the old methods just weren’t working as well as they used to. We still used Scripture as our first weapon, but we began to use it in a more concrete and expanded  way that was  age appropriate. Here are some ideas for ages 8 and up. (That’s about the age we made some changes, but use these as needed.)

  • Scripture became my child’s sword of offense I taught my child to use the Word of God in an offensive way. Whereas when they were younger we used Scripture as a comforting defense, it was time to learn to use the Word as an offense. For example: John 8: 44 , paraphrased for personal prayer, “Jesus, You are truth. Satan does not stand in the truth and there is no truth in him. These dreams are lies, and when he attacks me in the dark night with these lies, he is acting out of his own character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus, You are truth; please fill my mind with truth right now. And please drive Satan far from me. Protect me from his lies. Help my thoughts to remain in the light.” 
  • Prayer remained our first defense. As my children got older though, they were more able to express themselves in prayer. Rather than Mom doing all the praying, I would have the child pray. They could ask Jesus themselves for help and protection. They could trust Him to answer their prayers. And I had them pray specifically. Not just, “Jesus, please be with me”, but “Jesus, please help me to think about something else. Please help me to control my thoughts. Please be right here close to me and protect me from Satan tonight.”
  • I made a Scripture card to put beside the bed. I originally did this with my oldest daughter, because she truly needed it. I took a 3×5 index card, and on one side I copied down Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I took the card and we talked through all those options of things to think about. She gave me lots of ideas for each point. An example – “whatever is true”… Mom and Dad love me; I am safe; Jesus is right here with me; Satan has no control over me; this was just a dream; I belong to Christ.  We just went through every part of the verse and she gave me examples. Then, I wrote those examples on the back side of the card. And I put it right beside her bed. So at night, if she woke afraid, she could still come to me. I would still go to her bed and pray with her and stay as long as she needed me. But when I left, she could keep her bedside lamp on and read that card for as long as she needed to.

That card changed her life. She flat wore it out. It became faded and floppy. And the time came when she no longer woke me at night with every single bad dream, but she reached for the card instead. I remember one night, she woke me because she couldn’t find the card! It had slipped down between her bed and bedside table. It was wonderful to see how she was dependent on the Word of God, and how He used His Word to comfort her. At some point, the card was lost. I do wish we still had it; it was such a help to her when she needed it. She talks about that card still, and she is 20 years old now.

She actually told me when I was writing this post, that she still uses the method from the card, even though the actual card is long gone!!

What an impact God’s Word can have if we depend on it!!

  • She would also put her Bible under her pillow. Many a night I tucked her in only to feel the lump under that pillow. It gave her comfort to have it under there.  I do think it is so important to teach our children to depend on the Word for their needs. God will meet our children if we encourage them to ask Him to.
  • Get the dream details. I didn’t usually ask my younger children about the details, simply because many times they either can’t remember, or the dream made no sense in the first place. But as my kids got older, I made them tell me the exact details, as much as they could remember. Here’s why I did that – Satan works in the dark. He is the prince of darkness, and he rules it. My theory was, if we bring the dream out into the light, we diminish his power.
  • Talk it out. Once the dream is out, (and let me be honest here, this might take a while, because it is hard for the child to talk about. They may feel too afraid to discuss it. Continue to gently ask questions until you’ve got pretty much the whole story. Then, comfort some more. It takes a lot of hugging and snuggling to get through this.) So once you’ve hugged until the child feels safe again, start working through the details of the dream. Point out things that couldn’t happen in reality. Continue to talk it through, allowing the child to add in ways that it would never happen, or even ask questions about specific things that scared them.

This is certainly not a method that gets you back to sleep quickly, but if you are being woken several times a week by a child who is struggling with nightmares, you may as well do the hard work in order to help them permanently. After all, my 20-year-old daughter is still using the methods we began when she was around 8 years old. I’d call that permanent help.

I hope you have gotten some helpful ideas from this post! Nightmares can be such a pain to deal with, not to mention so frightening for our sweet kids!!

Join the Conversation

Please tell us in the comments any methods you have found helpful for dealing with nightmares in your own kids!! We all learn when we all share!!