what we need to know about listening to children's dreams and supporting their
1. Listen up!
When a child wants to tell a dream, make room for that. Make
some daily space for dream sharing. Listen to the stories and cherish them for
their own sake.
2. Invite good dreams Pick the right bedtime reading or better still, tell
stories. Help your child to weave a web of good dream intentions for the night
— for example, by asking “What would you most like to do tonight?” Encourage
children to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal (whether teddy bear or T-Rex)
and make this a dream guardian.
3. Provide immediate help with the scary
stuff If your child was scared by something in the night,
recognize you are the ally the child
needs right now. Do something right away to move out that negative energy. Hugs usually help. Get
a frightened child to spit it the yucky stuff (literally) or draw a picture of what scared
her and tear it up as violently as possible. Help her choose the right stuffed animal or toy to be a guardian for the night. When things are calm, you can suggest facing what was scary and dealing with it on its own ground - with a Riddikulus spell (as used in the Harry Potter stories to banish boggarts), or befriending it or by scaring it back.
4. Ask good questions. When the child has told her story, ask good questions. Ask
about feelings, about the color of the sky, and about exactly what T-Rex was
doing. See if there's something about the future. Say what you would think
about this if this were your dream. Always come up with something fun or
helpful to do with this story. Open up the crayon box, call grandma, etc.
5. Help the child to keep a dream
journal Get this started as early as possible. With a very young
child, you can help with the words while they do the pictures. When your child
reaches the point where she closes the journal and says, “This is my secret
book and you can't read it any more” do
not peek. Give her privacy, and let her choose when she'll let you look in
that magic book.
6. Provide tools for creative expression. Encourage the child to bring dreams come alive through art,
dance, theater and games, and to draw or paint dreams. Gather friends and
family for dream-inspired games and performance. Puppets and stuffed animals
can be great for acting out dreams. This can also be dress-up time. It's such a
release for kids to portray mom or dad or other grown-ups in their lives — be
ready to be shocked!
7. Help construct effective action plans Dreams can show us things that require further action — for
example, to avoid an unhappy future event that was previewed in the dream, or
to put something right in a family situation. A child will probably need adult
help with such things, starting with your
help. This will require you to learn more about dreaming and dreamwork, as
you are doing now.
8. Let your own inner child out to
play As you listen to children's dreams, let the wonderful child
dreamer inside you come out and join in the play.
9. Keep it fun!
you get the hang of this, you'll find it's about the best home entertainment
you can enjoy.
Notice two things that are not on this list, but would be at the very top of a
list of what not to do with a child’s
Never say to a child “It's only a dream”.
Children know that dreams are for real and that scary stuff that comes out in
dreams needs to be resolved, not dismissed.
Do NOT interpret a child's dreams.
You’re not the expert here; the child is.
“This splendid book… transcends disciplines and provides an agenda for the role that dreams can play in ensuring human survival.” — Stanley Krippner, PhD, coauthor of Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work with Them