We are having some bad dream issues here at Chez Us.
#2 is on a bad dream tear these days.
Common themes: Bad guys, dinsoaurs, harm to loved ones, and our favorite lovey being torn apart.
There are a lot of theories about dreams out there ranging from dreams have absolutely no meaning/significance to every single thing in a dream being significant and having deep subconscious meaning.
I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
She almost always gets up and lets us know she has had a bad dream, and rarely does she seem overly upset. She will usually come in and tell us, and then we send her back to bed. We used to let her get in to bed with us, but that is more disturbing to everyone's sleep so we have stopped that in the past year or so.
As she seems to go through little episodes from time to time where the dreams are frequent we have at times out of sleepiness been less nurturing than we could have been. I particuarly struggle with the middle of the night nurturing as I have always been very slow to wake up and am at my least pleasant when first awakened.
Right now as we work are trying to work through the latest episodes we are trying a few new things. First instead of just sending her back to bed one of us goes in and reassures her and stays with her a few minutes until she feels better. My research has shown that we were right not to continue letting her get in to bed with us. We did that for a long time and it is biting us on the butt now I think.
Today I had her draw pictures of her dreams, and then we talked about what we could do to "fix" the dream and then draw that. We talked about real life application to, (i.e. if "bad guys" are around we call the police and things of that sort.) This really seemed to be empowering to #2 and she totally got in to it. When she was done with her drawings she tore up the pictures, threw them away and said, "take that you bad dreams!" She made plans about what she would say to those bad guys if they showed up in her dreams again.
Then came the epiphany for me as a parent. I got to thinking about things as I watched her draw one dream involving dinosaurs and her lovey being torn apart, which has been in nearly every dream recently. I explained to her that sometimes people have bad dreams because they are worried about things and those things come up when they dreamed. So I asked if she was worried about her lovey. She said yes that she worried he would be lost forever. I was totally awash in guilt as I thought about how many times we have made comments that to us seemed harmless about how fragile and tattered her lovey has become and joking about not wanting to wash it because we are afraid it will fall apart and things of that nature. To us...comments that are just us joking around and trying to be funny and not meant seriously at all, but to her....awful and anxiety provoking. I reassured her that her lovey will in all likelihood be around until she is a grownup and that we will keep fixing it as long as it needs repaired. I promised to do the repairs I have put off for so long, and that she has asked for more times that I really want to admit this very night. She was willing to give him up at bedtime to allow me the chance to complete repairs, and seemed reassured that we would make every effort to keep the lovey around for a very long time to come.
She is also having to learn to cope with things without using her lovey and that is hard to do, but she is trying hard.
Will all of this take care of the nightmare problems we are having? Weellll...probably not right away.
I hope that at the very least it will help our child know that we value her feelings and take them seriously.
I also hope that I will be more thoughtful of my child's feelings before I make comments about things that are important to her. It is too easy to always look at things like a grownup and forget how the wee ones view the world. Sometimes "small stuff" is a big deal to little people. I guess I needed a boot to the head to remember that.
So I guess we can chalk up one more lesson in this journey that is parenthood. Hard as you try...there are always screw ups made and damage control to be done.