One thing which I find to be a newer & very disturbing trend is the kind of commercials and tv shows that are frightening children and causing horrifying nightmares. I hate to think how these types of images are affecting their psyches. I am getting more & more requests from parents to help their young children, and sadly it is not easy to undo the damage.
Parents need to be extremely cautious with leaving the tv on, even with programming that is specifically for children. Parents also need to be cognizant of what is said around their young children (up to appx age 5 or 6), as they take comments such as "zip your lips" or "rip your heart out" more literally than adults do, which create confusing visuals in their subconscious which are then turned into nightmares that wake them up screaming. A child's articulation skills are limited due to their small vocabulary, so they often cannot explain to their parents what has frightened them-and then the nightmares or night terrors can occur indefinitely.
An important fact to be alerted to is that even if you have a G-rating set up on your television, it will not stop PG-13 commercials from being shown. It doesn't make sense that television shows are rated, but not the commercials. Just think of thriller movies that are advertised, the Victoria Secret commercials, and the horror commercials shown at Halloween to advertise scary movies or area haunted houses. Where I live now (we are planning to move to the C-ville area in a few months), they show commercials for Universal Studios events that have shown "blood" dripping off walls, invisible monsters reaching out to unsuspecting vicims from a wall they are sitting next to, corpses rising off of a gurney to go after a victim, and maybe the worst: a sweet granny-type woman reading a bed-time story, only to then turn vicious and murder the man she had tied down to his bed.
Imagine how small children are negatively affected by these images that are created to frighten adults. I wish they would be regulated, but until then parents need to be alerted to the damage that can be done to their children's peace of mind, and prevent them being viewed. The damage done can easily be long-term, and not just for one night of nightmares. Parents turn to me months later, when it is often too late to pin-point the originating cause and explain it to the child so that they are no longer frightened. This can lead to life-long nightmares, or night terrors.
I also recommend to parents that they do not give caffeine to their children, and that they create a soothing yet cheerful environment that progresses to more & more quiet & hushed tones as they get closer to actual sleep-time. Keep the books oriented to personal empowerment (please, no Brothers Grimm or scary tales right before sleep), teach the child a short affirmation or prayer of protection that they can repeat to themselves if they become afraid. Teach them the slow & deep breathing technique, to lessen any adrenaline surge that is triggered by fear. The dreaming mind takes any fear and dutifully turns the images into something terrifying, so anything that soothes the child will help stop the adrenaline surge; hence stopping the terrifying images. This technique works for adults, as well.
I remember many of mine, vividly. The boy with a zipper for his mouth (my dad used to say, "Zip it!" often when I was a kid, and I think I inadvertantly made it literal in a dream)... the boot that chased after me (I wonder if it was that song, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"?) ... the walking eyeball dressed with a cowboy hat & a gunbelt (a la Clint Eastwood style) that called me to a duel at High Noon outside the saloon (that one just seemed funny after I woke up, but was O' so terrifying while I was dreaming it!)... but horror of horrors, the all time midnight scream belongs to the dream about the dead dog who followed me around mysteriously. That nightmare still gives me chills, to this day! I'll write about that one on this page one day.
Anyway, my point is that we can teach our kids helpful dream interpretation skills early, just like they learn other skills like reading or writing; and if you equip them with a few helpful tips on how to figure out what their dreams mean, it will go a long way in easing the terror of their nightmares as well as set them up great for their future. Once they realize that dreams and especially nightmares are like messages from our mind that are trying to help us figure out solutions to our problems so that we can be happier, then it takes the mystery out of something they can't control and it isn't so scary to go back to sleep. For an idea of how helpful this can be, read on for an example of how my son handled a nightmare.
I have a son who is following in my childhood footsteps and having nightmares often. I decided to try to help him establish good dream interpretation skills early on, so that he would have a helpful tool for insight that will follow him throughout his life. Although the TTAQ Method may seem a bit complicated at first, you'll find it is not as hard as it seems at first glance, and my son has had remarkable success with this method. Here are some of the benefits:
Your child will feel he has more control over his/her fears and the nightmares once he figures out why he may be having the dream, or what it means. My son now sleepily staggers out to tell me his dream in the middle of the night, we use the quick TTAQ Method, he feels better, and I don't even have to pull teeth to get him to go back to bed! Before we started doing this, he was too scared to return to his room.
Helping your child interpret their dreams will give you added insight into what their fears are, any trouble they may be having at school or with friends, or at home. Of course, once they get old enough they won't need our help to interpret their dreams, and they will want their privacy.
By learning to interpret their dreams from an early age, children will have a better chance of figuring out what they want from life, and what "life" wants from them. Ever feel like you can't figure out why you make the same mistakes over & over? By learning to tune in to their inner-most thoughts, a child has a better chance of avoiding this trap.
Here is an example:
My son came running out of his room in the middle of the night, scared & unnerved. He was 7 years old at the time this nightmare occured. It was the first time I tried the TTAQ for him, and here is what happened: "Mommy, I had a nightmare that tricked me, and I thought I was awake but I wasn't really, and I walked into a monster!" He went on to tell me the dream, and then we used the TTAQ. The answers are my 7 year old's own words:
DREAM: "I was in bed & then I woke up & went out my door to the bathroom. Then I saw you (Mom) walk by me after I left the bathroom, and you were going to your room. You smiled at me. I followed you and went in your door. I went into (became) the monster on purpose 'cuz I didn't know...and then it was moving. Then the monster opened a door in the floor , I walked into the brown door and it (the door) became the monster. The monster tricked me, and I was in the monster's body! Then I woke up for real this time."
Interpretation: Earlier that day I had chastised my son for taking things that didn't belong to him and for sneaking into my bedroom, a room that has always been off limits because it is not child-proof and it is my husband's & my private space away from kids. He was struggling with "good choices v.s. bad choices," and his jealousy (green monster) of not being allowed in our room. Notice as soon as he went into my bedroom door, he "became" the monster. I had also talked to him about trying to con me with excuses like, "I just forgot," or "I didn't know." Suddenly, the dream made sense, and I asked Jarrod if he understood his dream. He said, "Yes, mommy, I can't make bad choices and then lie about them & I am like a monster, or I can make good choices and NOT feel like a monster. I still want to go in your room, though!"
So now, as a parent, I have insight into the previously unspoken jealousy my son was feeling over not being allowed in his parent's bedroom. It alerts me to explain things more clearly to him about the room not being child-proof and how he could get hurt on certain items such as the iron, etc., and also gets me thinking about allowing limited supervised excursions into my room to take the mystery out of it and lesson his feelings of being left out, or make the decision that he needs to learn to respect other people's privacy but try to explain it more thoroughly. End result: my son was no longer afraid to go back to sleep after his nightmare, and we both learned an important lesson!
Here's a link to a resource on sleep disorders put together by America's CDC: Here is a link to accredited Sleep Disorder Clinics
& sleep related breathing disorder labs @ Sleep Education's website: Even I didn't know there were this many sleep disorders!
Sleep Disorder Resources
Here's a link to a resource on sleep disorders put together by America's CDC:
Here is a link to accredited Sleep Disorder Clinics
& sleep related breathing disorder labs @ Sleep Education's website:
Even I didn't know there were this many sleep disorders!
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