Dreams during lockdown
Content for this article is partly based on ‘Playing Smart’, by Susan Perry.
Quite a few children have been experiencing vivid dreams during the lockdown period. This isn’t strange, given the huge deviation from normal life we have all had to endure. Here are some ideas for introducing your child to dreams and helping them to understand why bad dreams happen.
Dreams are a universal human experience that begins even during infancy. They have a way of bringing out feelings that otherwise might be suppressed or not spoken about. Encouraging a child to accept her dreams and talk about them is a good, safe way of allowing her to discuss her feelings openly.
Don’t panic if a child seems to only have bad dreams. It seems that most of the dreams that children remember are the unpleasant ones. Happy dreams are unfortunately often forgotten once the child wakes up.
Nightmares are commonly experienced between the ages of 5 – 7 years. This is the age when children are usually faced with the demands of school and learning and could be the reason for scary dreams. Other causes could be disturbing life events – and certainly our battle against the corona virus and having our lives turned upside down supply more than sufficient reasons for all of us experiencing less than pleasant dreams!
To help children cope, you could encourage them to draw the dream (or their feelings about the dream). This helps them to externalize the dream and gain a measure of control over it, which reduces anxiety. They could also use clay and other materials to ‘make’ their dreams. Once they’ve finished, ask questions about the picture or object. Choose questions that can guide them to find their own solution to a bad dream: What will you do to help the person in the picture? How does the person feel? How can you make the situation less scary? If your scary monster could speak, what would it say? What would you like to tell it? If you had the power, what would you do to help yourself in your dream?
What you don’t want to do is to try to interpret children’s dreams for them. Let them try to make sense of what is going on in their worlds. We need to guard against simplistic, one-sized-fits-all interpretations.