Nightmares: Help for Younger Children

 

Nightmares. Bad dreams. Scary thoughts. 

All of those can wreak havoc on a child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. Which in turn wreak havoc on a Mom’s ability to get a good night’s sleep! I know that Dads are sometimes the ones who respond to the nighttime cries of a child, but in our house, it’s always my side of the bed they come to. And believe me, in my 27+ years of mothering 10 children, we have had our fair share of nightmares.

My oldest boys had nightmares to some degree, but it was my oldest daughter who set the bar for bad dreams in this house. She really struggled with them. When all the things I did with my boys no longer worked for her, we had to come up with some new ideas.

(I have noticed that my more creative children have significantly more bad dreams than my concrete thinking children. I don’t know if that always holds true in general, but just what I have observed here in our own home.)

In this two-part series, I want to share some of the things I have done when our children are very young, and first start having trouble with bad dreams, (or at least are first able to articulate what is happening), and then when they get older and the simpler things aren’t working anymore.

First, let’s talk about how to help our younger ones. I’m not setting an age on this; all children are different, so please use your own discretion when using any of these methods! My own children first learned Psalm 4:8 around age 4 as a general rule. You could certainly begin earlier!!

 

Child Sleeping

 

  • Scripture is our first weapon against dark dreams.  The very first thing I do is have them memorize Psalm 4:8. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  We say the verse together as I tuck them in at night, and again if they awaken with a bad dream. We talk about the verse; I make sure they understand it.
  • We call on the name of Jesus. As soon as I am awakened by the child, I begin to pray out loud that Jesus would help him. I usually pull little ones into my bed to snuggle right in my arms for a while. Sometimes we just say the name of Jesus over and over as a prayer. “Jesus, please help Susie. Jesus, please be here with us. Jesus, please help Susie to rest in You.” And over and over until the child calms down.
  • We practice taking control of our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 – “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  Nightmares are Satan’s way of putting evil thoughts into our heads. So we pray together that Jesus will help the child to think about good things. Which leads to the next point…
  • I suggest other things to think about. When the child is really young, these are things like playing with puppies, birthdays, Christmas morning, swimming at the beach, riding bikes, butterflies, eating ice cream, etc. I focus on things that would be fun for the child to think about. As they get older, the thought suggestions change, and I will address that in the next post.
  • We use Bible based CD’s to play at bedtime. When I started doing this with my oldest two sons, their nightmares all but stopped. They are now 27 and 24, but I have invested in new copies of the same things I purchased for them. Their favorite bedtime CD was Psalty.  ( That link goes to one of our favorite Psalty CD’s. There are a lot to choose from, but this one is so sweet.)   If you’ve never heard of Psalty, he was a character developed by Ernie and Debbie Rettino way back in the 80’s. We own every CD that they produced and after 20+ years, I can still sing every word of every song. Here’s a sample of Psalty. (Note: if your kids are already used to flashy music and videos, they will probably find Psalty cheesy. Hopefully, if they are still very young, they can enjoy these sweet songs.) My oldest girl liked to listen to  Hide ‘Em in Your Heart, Vol. 1 & 2 by Michael W. Smith.  I can still sing all of those songs too. Ha!!

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.  I’ll talk about that in part 2 of this series, so be sure to come back next Monday for that!!

 

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Would you share in the comments any ideas you have used to help your own child with nightmares? Or any specific Scriptures you have used? 

 

 

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  1. […] 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 […]