Wants to Sleep with Parents – School-Aged Children

While people know that babies and toddlers often want to sleep in their parents’ bed, they may not realize that this desire can also occur in school age children. Children aged six to twelve may refuse to sleep in their own rooms for a variety of reasons. Knowing WHY a child wants to sleep with his or her parents can help guide appropriate interventions.

If your child insists on sleeping in YOUR bed, consider the following:

Fears and Anxiety
Many children have anxiety and fears that cause them to seek parental comfort in the night. For instance, a child may be afraid of the dark (ghosts, monsters and other unnamed demons). Or, a child may be afraid of robbers or other night-time invaders. Some children have had a traumatic experience that leaves them feeling afraid and vulnerable. Some children have separation anxiety – a type of anxiety whose main feature is fear of being separated from caregivers or significant others. Some children have an anxiety disorder that causes them to feel high degrees of anxiety for no particular reason. Many types of anxiety become more intense when a person is alone and they also worsen when a person is in the dark and when the person is unoccupied – all of the conditions that occur when a person is in bed at night!

If fearfulness or anxiety seems to be the culprit, you can try “self-help” techniques with your child first. For instance, you can give your child Bach Flower Remedies that address the particular type of fear.These harmless, water-based preparations are added to a bit of water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, juice or other liquid 4 times a day until the fear has disappeared. Mimulus helps specific fears like fears of robbers and also separation anxiety. Aspen addresses vague fears such as fears of the dark. Rescue Remedy addresses fears that come from a traumatic incident as well as overwhelming terror of being alone in one’s room, Rock Rose may help panic that seems to be occurring for no known reason. Bach Flower Remedies are available in health food stores. Instructions for their preparation are available on this site (see article called Bach Flower Remedies).

There are also practical, behavioral interventions that can be used. For example, allowing a frightened child to sleep with the light is a method that may help. Eventually the child will learn to sleep with the lights off. Unless the child has a sleeping disorder, there is no need to be concerned about the short-term use of this strategy. Similarly, the door of the room can remain opened. Also it’s fine to put on some relaxing (and distracting!) music or white noise or even a CD with relaxation strategies.

Another technique that works very well on fears is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a short sequence of acupressure that involves tapping on one’s own body at 8 different points. There are numerous online video clips demonstrating the technique for both adults and children. There are also many books on the subject. and lots of mental health professionals who use EFT in their practice, both as a treatment modality and an educational tool.

Meditation, breathing, visualization and many other easy and powerful self-help techniques are available for the self-help reduction of anxious feelings. Look for a mental health professional who can teach both you and your child how to use these strategies. Meanwhile, be sure to respond to your child’s fears compassionately. Use Emotional Coaching (the naming and accepting of feelings) to knowledge and welcome anxious feelings; stay away from mockery, criticism, lectures and reprimands. Not only will these do absolutely nothing to remove the fear, but they will harm the child and your parent-child relationship. On the other hand, compassion and acceptance can soften the fear and help it shift, while building and strengthening the parent-child bond.

If your own efforts to help reduce your child’s fear or anxiety level don’t work, take your child to a child psychologist. A mental health professional will be able to help your child manage fears effectively.

Adjusting to Change
Sometimes children react to change by seeking the comfort of their parent’s bed. When parents have separated or divorced or when one parent has passed away, for instance, many children “move into” their parent’s bedroom. If the family has moved to a new location, this is even more common. Instead of settling into his or her own new room, the child wants to sleep with the parent.

The problem of allowing the child into the single parent’s bed is that the child may be in no rush to leave that bed. In fact, the parent may also be finding comfort in the child’s presence after separation, divorce or death of a spouse. However, the parent often heals with time and develops a new relationship. Eventually the parent will want his or her new partner in that bed and will have to ask the child to remain in his or her own room. Trying to make the change at this juncture can cause the child to deeply resent the new partner.

When the child is having trouble with change, you can use the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut which helps people adjust to new circumstances more easily. You can also bring comfort tools into the child’s new room – items such as large stuffed animals, CD player for bedtime sleep programs, healing crystals, special blankets or special toys. Be patient; it can take time for the child to make the necessary internal changes.

If these methods aren’t enough to allow the child to feel comfortable in his or her own room after a period of months, however, then seek professional help. This can often bring about the desired change.

Seeking Attention
Sometimes children want more parental contact. This can happen when parents have long working hours or travel a lot or are otherwise physically or emotionally unavailable for the child a lot of the time. It can also happen just because a child is particularly needy of parental attention – this is an inborn characteristic.

If you suspect that your absence is the reason your child wants to be in your bed, see if there is a way to give a few more minutes of quality time each day to your child. If you can’t be there in person, perhaps you can have other types of contact (email, skype or chatting/texting). Or, perhaps you can have more intense quality time when settling the child to bed. Maybe you can make a special time on the weekend to have more intense contact. Sleeping with the child is not healthy for the child’s development and therefore it is NOT a good idea to try to make up for inadequate parenting time by having the child in your bed.

If you suspect that the child is simply needy, consider offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Heather. If the child is both needy and manipulative, try Chicory. Alternatively, speak to a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and preparation of an appropriate mixture of remedies to help reduce neediness.

Strong Willed
Sometimes your child just WANTS to sleep in your bed. Firm and consistent rules can be helpful with this kind of youngster. Be careful not to give in to tantrums, whining, pleading or other dramatic behaviors. Make a simple rule: “No sleeping in our room. You have to sleep in your room.” Then stick to it. Use the 2X-Rule of discipline if the child comes to your room after his or her bedtime (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for detailed instructions on how to use the 2X-Rule and choose negative consequences). Repeat your rule and add a warning the second time the child shows up in your room: “We told you before – no sleeping in our room; you have to sleep in your room. From now on, when you come into our room, such & such consequence will occur.” Apply the consequence if the child shows up in your room a third time.

In addition to (or sometimes even instead of) discipline, you might consider experimenting with the Bach Flower Remedy called Vine This remedy can help reduce stubborn and strong-willed inborn tendencies, helping the child to retain his leadership qualities while becoming more flexible and cooperative with others.

Very First Day of School

The first day of school is an important milestone in a child’s life – and in the life of the child’s parents as well! Whether this happens when the child is 2 or 3 or older, it marks a definite transition in the youngster’s developmental journey. It is a turning point between the time that the child is educated only by his or her family and the next couple of decades in which he or she will be educated by so many other adults. Gone are the days when the little one was held in the 24/7 warm embrace of home and family; now he or she ventures out daily into a world of activities and people outside of the parents’ jurisdiction. No longer restricted to the social life offered by siblings and/or a carefully selected tiny group of peers, the child is inducted into close contact with other children who are strangers to the family. The first day of school brings a large and enduring change in the child’s universe.

If you want to make this important transition happen as seamlessly as possible, consider the following tips:

Meet the Staff
In a way, teachers and other school personnel are strangers to you – it can be anxiety provoking to leave your child in their care. It helps if you can get to know the school personnel before school begins. Sometimes schools wisely arrange an introductory meeting for both parents and new students. If your child’s new school doesn’t have this practice, however, see if you can set up an appointment with your child’s teacher(s), even if only to meet for a couple of moments and introduce yourself and your child. While you’re in the school building, stop by the principal’s office to say “hello” to whoever happens to be around (including the secretarial staff). Try to meet the school nurse, the traffic guard, and any other staff members that your child will be dealing with. This is a great way to help prepare your child and to also establish important parent-staff relationships. Remember, you may be working with these people towards your child’s development for a long time. If you are reading this at some point AFTER your child’s first day at school, you can still do the school tour and introductions anytime; when you are picking your youngster up one day, just make it a point to introduce yourself to his or her teacher and then search out other staff members and repeat the exercise.

Prepare Your Child
Although your child will undoubtedly be excited about his or her first day at school, he or she may also be scared. Those who have had previous experience in structured day care or playgroup settings will likely find the transition a bit easier, but there’s still a new building, new teacher and new peer group to contend with. Those who’ve been at home with a parent the whole time, may be quite anxious about the separation about to occur.

You can prepare your child by taking him or her to the actual classroom BEFORE the school year starts. In addition, use bibliotherapy (the use of books) to explore the topic of “First Day at School.” There are child-friendly internet resources on this subject as well. Explain what will happen in detail (i.e. “Mommy will drop you off with your teacher and then go shopping. Mommy will come back when she’s finished shopping to pick you up” and take you home for lunch.) It really helps for the child to have an idea of where the parent is and what he or she is doing while the child is at school. Even if the parent isn’t going shopping, it might be easier for the youngster to accept that the parent is occupied somewhere outside the house than to know that the parent is going home without him or her. Also explain to your child that some children in the class may be sad for a few days and some may be fine. However, the sad ones might be crying. Explain that they need to get used to being in school and this can take some days, but soon they will stop crying. Let your child know that it’s hard to hear other kids crying. Reassure him or her that the crying children are safe and will soon stop. Recommend that your child concentrate on doing a puzzle or listening to the teacher carefully, so as not to become upset at the crying of the children.

Get Ready
One way to take the stress of preparing your child for his first day, is to make sure that everything is in order. This includes getting your child’s bags, school supplies and clothes ready as early as the night before. Plan what you want to place in your child’s lunch box ahead too; don’t raid the refrigerator 10 or 15 minutes before. Put gas in the car, or contract with a school bus. Make sure the all your paperwork – enrollment forms, IDs, permit to enter school premises, etc. – are organized. Go to sleep peacefully, knowing that you’re ready for the day.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
The Bach Flower Remedy walnut is a safe, child-friendly way to help ease transitions and new beginnings. Particularly if your child finds change difficulty, give him or her 2 drops of the remedy in liquid, 4 times a day for the week before school starts. Continue for 2 weeks or more AFTER school begins.

If your child actually panics at separation, consider offering the Bach Remedy called Rescue Remedy. This remedy helps calm states of hysteria and overwhelm. It is available in liquid, spray, candy and gum forms. Give your child some the night before school, the morning of and also just as the child is going into school.

If after a number of weeks of school, your small child still has intense separation anxiety despite these measures, you might decide to postpone school for a few more months or even another year. Alternatively, you might consider arranging a consultation with a child psychologist. The professional can assess your youngster and provide useful interventions.

Night Terrors

Does your child wake up screaming during the night? Sometimes nighttime screams are triggered by a nightmare, but sometimes they happen for no apparent reason. If your child is waking in fear or hysteria, always talk to your pediatrician. Allergies, health conditions, trauma and other issues may trigger nightmares. It is also possible that the child is suffering from Night Terror Disorder. We’ll look at this latter condition in more detail in this article.

What is Night Terror Disorder?
Night Terror Disorder may be diagnosed when a youngster awakens from sleep with a loud scream, intense fear, rapid breathing and sweating – without any recollection of a dream. The child will seem confused as to where he is, what time it is and what is happening in the present moment. The child usually has no memory of the frightening dream. He is unresponsive to attempts to comfort him, although he may “return to himself” a few minutes later.

Children experiencing Night Terror Disorder may get out of bed and act as if they are fighting. During an episode of night terror, children are not fully awake and it may not be possible to awake them. The average bout of night terror usually last less than fifteen minutes. People with night terrors usually only have one episode a  week.

Night terrors are much more common during childhood than in adulthood. Night terrors usually begin sometime during the age of 4-12 and most often disappear sometime during adolescence. This disorder is more common in boys than it is in girls and is not associated with any psychological disorders in children.

Treatment of Night Terrors
As long as sleep terror is not interfering with the child’s life then there may be no need for medical treatment – your doctor will advise you. Simply waiting quietly with the child for the terror to pass is usually the best intervention. For instance, a parent can lie down beside the child until the child is calm again and falls back to sleep. Although parents may feel distress seeing their child so distressed, it’s helpful to keep in mind that the child will actually have no recall of the event the next morning! Sometimes just giving the child a few days of extra rest (early bedtimes) and a calming routine is enough to end a cycle of Sleep Terrors. However, if sleep terror disorder persists and is interfering with the child’s life there are some steps that are suggested for parents to take such as: rearranging bedroom furniture to avoid injuries, taking the child for some for of psychotherapy or play therapy and, if so inclined, looking into alternative treatments that may be helpful. For instance, some children have responded well to acupuncture in the treatment of their Night Terrors.

Experiment with Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless treatment that might be helpful. For instance, during an episode of Night Terror, spray Rescue Remedy into the child’s mouth or drop liquid Rescue Remedy onto his or wrists – it might help calm the child down. Also, see if giving the child a personal Bach mixture might help reduce the frequency of the episodes – if it has no effect, there is no loss apart from a small cost of the remedies. The remedies Agrimony, Cherry Plum, Impatiens and Rock Rose might be especially helpful.

Medical Treatment
It is possible that certain breathing disorders may contribute to the development of Sleep Disorder and these should be ruled out by a medical practitioner. When such a disorder is present, treating the breathing disorder will relieve the night terrors. In particularly severe cases of Sleep Disorder, medication may be employed. A common medication for example is diazepam – a sleep-inducing medication that can sometimes prevent sleep terror from occurring during sleep.

Discovering That Your Child is Bullying Others

Everyone knows that bullying is a big problem in schoolyards and communities. However, health if it IS a big problem, search it means that there are a lot of bullies out there. It also means that a lot of parents have children who are bullies! Most of these parents are kind and reasonable people, order people who are shocked and dismayed when they discover that their child is a bully. They are also truly confused: how did this happen? How could their own child fail to absorb their values of respecting and caring for others?

If you have been informed that your child has been intimidating, scaring or hurting other children, consider the following tips:

Keep Perspective
Hearing that your child has been aggressive – and maybe even violent— tends to evoke a lot of strong feelings. There’s often anger, grief, embarrassment and shame – especially in front of the victim’s parents; there might also be confusion, guilt and maybe a little self-blame. It’s best to take time to process these intense emotions and really important NOT to try to deal with your child while you are still feeling very overwhelmed and/or very upset. If you confront your child at the height of emotion, you risk aggravating the situation and possibly even making the bullying behavior worse!

While you are calming down, consider the silver lining in this cloud: you have been made aware of a problem that needs healing attention. Often, bullying is a symptom of a bigger problem. It can be that your child has been victimized and is acting out his or her own pain. It might also be a symptom of a problem in your family that really needs corrective attention. Sometimes something in the child’s biology or psychology needs therapy. Take the current crisis as an opportunity to diagnose what is not working in your child and/or your family.

Look for Anger
Bullying is usually a symptom of a child’s repressed anger. If you find out that your child is a bully, try to determine if your child is angry and/or needs help managing anger.

Note that even young kids do experience anger. If they feel powerless against a parent or a sibling, they are likely to nurture a lot of resentment. If they are being bullied by bigger bullies, then they might be seeking revenge on people they can control. Children can also be angry about the “cards” that life has dealt them: experiencing difficult circumstances such as chronic illness, disability or death in the family, financial problems, separation or divorce, or other challenges and this anger can be unfairly directed at vulnerable people. This is even more likely when the child’s pain has not yet been identified or addressed by parents or professionals.

Look for Role Models
If your child is bullying others you might also look into the influences that might be feeding this behavior. Sometimes kids learn to bully by becoming friendly with bullies or even admiring a popular crowd of bullies in their school or neighborhood. Sometimes they learn it in the home, as older kids or even parents use “strong arm” techniques to get their way with them or other members of the family. Sometimes T.V., movies, computer games or other media can make rough behavior seem permissible or even positive in some way. If you see that your child is spending time in the presence of aggressive models, take steps to improve his environment and what he’s exposed to.

Seek Professional Consultation
Unless this is the first time your child has been accused of bullying behavior and unless that behavior is the most mild form of bullying (i.e. being a bystander when another child is acting aggressive), do consider involving a mental health professional. A little prevention can go a long way. Have the professional provide an assessment of the problem and make recommendations for the best treatment. If it is appropriate, have the professional provide therapy as well. Nipping this kind of behavior in the bud can help your child lead a happier and more successful life.

Take Other Steps to Address the Problem
If the bullying is new and minor, consider using Bach Flower Therapy. The Bach remedy Vine can often reduce the bullying tendency in children as well as adults. Four drops four times a day in liquid can be given until the behavior is no longer an issue.

Bach Flowers can also be used when other steps are also being taken – such as counseling, anger management programs, behavior management programs or other interventions that your child might benefit from. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

You might also want to arrange a bit of family counseling or marital counseling. It’s important to offer the best model possible for your kids. If you or your spouse tends to be very strong in parenting or marriage communications, your child may be acting out or copying your style. Professional help can speed recovery along, although if you and  your partner are motivated, self-help videos, books and classes can help bring your family to a higher level of emotional well-being while reducing conflict, anger and aggression, improving relationships and enhancing empathy.

Continue to Monitor Progress
Let your child know that bullying is completely unacceptable and will always be addressed through every possible means, be it education, communication, discipline, therapy or any other form of intervention. Show your youngster that this is a behavior you take seriously and want to help, not only because you object to it on moral grounds, but mostly because you know your child will never be happy as long as he or she feels the need to hurt other people.

Afraid of Monsters

Boogeyman under the bed, one-eyed balls of fur in the closet, you name it – children have vivid imaginations. This allows them to be endlessly creative and, unfortunately, to conjure up endless varieties of frightening images. Imagination, combined with a child’s actual experience of real helplessness against forces much larger than himself, often finds expression in the common childhood fear of “monsters.” Far from being “cute,” this fear can prevent kids from getting a good night sleep. It often leaves them afraid to be alone in their own rooms, fearing shadows, cabinets, closets and that ominous space under the bed.

If your child is afraid of monsters, consider the following tips:

Accept the Feeling of Fear
Fear of monsters may seem silly to adults, but it is a serious matter for young children. Avoid shaming the child or discounting his feelings, even as a form of encouragement (i.e “don’t be silly!”). Instead, acknowledge that the child is afraid by saying something like “I know you’re afraid.” This simple comment can accomplish many things: it conveys understanding (which, in itself, is therapeutic for the child), it helps strengthen the parent-child bond (because the child feels “seen” by the parent), and it helps shrink the fear (because naming the feeling gives it a “box” to fit in, rather than leaving it larger than life). The simple naming of a feeling without negative judgment helps the child to accept and release his own feelings which, over time, helps him to calm himself down more easily. The naming of a feeling is called “Emotional Coaching” and it helps build the child’s emotional intelligence (see “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice” for more information about this technique.)

Teach Courage in the Face of Fear
After you’ve named the child’s fear, you can provide problem-solving tools and you can still enforce your normal household rules. You might say something like this: “I know you’re afraid of monsters. You can keep the little night light on and sleep with your bear. You need to go to sleep now.” As we have already mentioned, there is no need to discount the child’s fear (i.e. by saying things like “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”)  You can acknowledge the fear and still insist that the child sleep in his or her own room.

Positive Stories can Help
Use stories to help empower children. Kids who are afraid of monsters are usually toddlers and preschoolers; the older a child gets, the less believable monsters are. Younger kids are not likely to believe a parent’s direct reassurance that monsters don’t exist. After all, how would parents know? Maybe they just haven’t seen one. Because of this, indirect methods of communicating are best. Library books with stories of kids who “conquer” monsters can provide relief and an indirect invitation to be courageous in the face of “boogeymen.” In addition, making up stories of children who overcome all sorts of challenges, can help kids feel less helpless and more competent. This helps reduce the insecurity that leads to fears of monsters. Parents might take their child’s name, add a title, and make up adventures. For instance, here is a story that one Mom made up for her son Kevin:

“There was once a little boy named “Kevin-the-Brave.” Kevin-the-Brave took his friends to explore the deep jungles of Africa. He was paddling his boat up the river when he saw a big crocodile up ahead. ‘Quick,’ called Kevin-the-Brave to his friends, ‘throw me a rope! I have to swing it over that branch and pull our boat away from the crocodile. Someone handed Kevin the rope; he threw it high and it landed on a nearby tree. Quickly he tugged on it to pull the boat sharply out of the crocodile’s path and they were saved.”

The story continues with adventure after adventure, with little Kevin  always saving the day. These kinds of stories have a tremendously empowering effect on kids, sending messages of courage and strength deep into their little minds. Try it and observe the results!

Use Positive Imagination to Elicit Safety & Comfort
You can encourage positive imagination through comfort objects. Young children can find a little extra comfort in stuffed animals and dolls – especially kids with good imaginations. Imagination, after all, can produce different kinds of images; negative images like scary monsters and protective images like magic bears. Encourage your imaginative child to generate helpful, happy ideas. The more the child does this, the stronger the positive mental habit becomes. Instead of saying, “See, there are no monsters,” you can guide the child to positive thinking by saying, “Here is your friend the Bear to cuddle with. The two of you can sleep together. The bear will keep you company and scare the monsters away.” If possible, get one or two smiley, happy-looking dolls or stuffed toys for the child’s room and put up positive images on the walls (bright, happy-looking pictures). Keep the atmosphere safe and friendly looking. To keep your young child’s mind focused in brighter places, consider playing some sweet lullaby music as he or she drifts off to sleep. Music can calm the anxious mind and distract the child from his or her worry-habit.

Be Careful Not to Reinforce Fears
Avoidance makes fears worse –  try not to solve the problem by letting your child sleep in your room in order to escape the monsters in his room! Moreover, be careful not to show significant interest in the fear; keep your interventions brief and low-key. In this way, you will not accidentally reinforce the fear by giving it excessive attention. Simply attend to the child in a calm, brief, matter-of-fact way. “I know you’re afraid. You can keep the night light on. Remember to use your calming techniques. I’ll be downstairs with Dad.”

Provide Protective Presence
If you have the time, it’s fine to stay with your young child for 10 or 15 minutes IN HIS OR HER OWN ROOM until he or she drifts off to sleep. Surviving the experience of being in his or her own room is an important aspect of healing the fear. However, being supported emotionally in the room is fine – the child doesn’t have to go it alone in order to get better. Young children feel most secure (and least bothered by monsters) when their parents or other loved ones stay with them during the transition to sleep. Most kids outgrow the need and desire for this practice once they are school age. Let kids share a room: kids tend to have less monster fears when sharing a room with a sibling. Keep in mind that the fear of monsters is time-limited and you can change sleeping arrangements later on.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. Of the 38 Bach Remedies, several are excellent for different types of fear. For instance, Aspen is for vague fears like fear of the dark, fear of ghosts or fear of monsters. The remedy Rock Rose is for panic. If a child loses control due to intense fear, Cherry Plum will return stability. If the child becomes stubborn, absolutely refusing to sleep in his room for example, Vine can help him become more cooperative. Bach Flowers are sold in health food stores around the world. You can mix several together in one treatment bottle. Fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle (an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold wherever Bach Remedies are sold) with water. Add two drops of each remedy. Add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use: place 4 drops in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, soup, etc.) and give it to your child 4 times each day: morning, midday, afternoon and evening. Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue until the fear has dissipated. Treat again if the fear returns. Continue in this way, treating the fear when it is present and stopping treatment when it is not present, until it is simply gone. In this way, a child can become more secure over time and possibly less prone to anxious feelings in the future.

Seek Professional Intervention
If you find that your child is still intensely fearful of monsters even after you have provided self-soothing techniques, do consider accessing professional help. A child-psychologist may be able to treat your child’s fear in a few brief sessions.

Worries

Worrying is a common human activity which everyone engages in. While children and teens have specific worries at various times – such as worry about school, doctors, robbers, dogs, or friendships – some children tend to worry about almost everything! When worry is frequent or across the board, it can become a serious source of distress in your child’s life. Moreover, your child’s intense worrying can also have an impact on you as you spend endless hours trying to offer reassurance and inspire greater confidence.

If your child worries a lot, consider the following tips:

Worry is a Form of Stress
In its mildest forms, worry is a stress-inducing activity. Worry involves thinking about stressful events like something bad happening, something going wrong or some disaster occuring. Such thoughts send stress chemistry through the body. Some people say they worry in order to prevent something bad from happening. Their logic is that it is not “safe” to be too sure of a positive outcome and believing that things will work out just fine can actually cause them to go awry. Interestingly, no spiritual or religious discipline advocates such an approach; on the contrary – every spiritually oriented philosophy encourages POSITIVE thinking in order to help positive events occur. Nonetheless, many people claim that worrying is somehow helpful to them. Some say that it prepares them in advance for disappointment so that they won’t be crushed if things do turn out badly. Like the superstitious philosophy above, this really makes no sense. Suffering in advance only ADDS a certain number of days or hours of pain to the pain of disappointment of something not turning out well. It would be better to be happy in advance and just feel badly at the time something actually goes wrong. Besides, most of the things that people worry about actually turn out O.K. which means that they have suffered many hours for no reason whatsoever! In short, there is really nothing that we can recommend about the habit of worrying. It is simply a bad habit that wears us down.

Because worrying is a habit, the more one does it, the more one will be doing it in the future. In this way, worrying is just like playing piano – practice and more practice makes it easier and faster to play the (worry) song. The worry habit builds up a strong neural pathway in the brain. However, once a person stops worrying, the neural pathway shrinks from lack of use and more productive thoughts will more easily and rapidly occur. But how can one stop worrying? And how can one help his or her child stop worrying?

How to Stop Your Own Worry Habit

  • As soon as you are aware that you are worrying, start thinking about something else – anything else. For instance, look at what is right in front of you and describe it. This breaks up the worry activity and interrupts the automatic habit, sort of “blowing up” the worry pathways in the brain.
  • Set aside 2 periods each day to specifically worry about a problem that you have. Allow five or ten minutes for each period and worry all you want. If you find yourself worrying at any other time of the day, STOP and remind yourself that it is not your worry period. Be sure to worry during your scheduled times.
  • Learn “mindfulness meditation.” This technique can help you release worries as well gently. (See more information about related techniques below).
  • Take the Bach Flower Remedy (see below) called “White Chestnut” for general worries (especially those that keep you awake at night) and “Red Chestnut” for worries about your close family members like parents, spouse and kids.

How to Help Your Child Stop the Worry Habit
When your child expresses a worry, name his feelings and don’t try to change them. For instance, if your child says, “I’m so afraid I’m going to fail my test.” you can say, “I understand Honey. You’re afraid you won’t pass.” Or, if your child says, “What if no one at the new school likes me?” you could say, “Yes, it’s scary to think that the kids won’t like you.”  The main part of this technique is NOT trying to talk the child out of his or her worry (i.e. “Oh don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine!”). If you refrain from offering reassurance, your child will begin to reassure HIMSELF! It’s not much fun worrying out loud when no one tries to reassure you. This discourages the child from thinking so negatively – or at least, cuts it very short. Also, by naming and accepting the worry WITHOUT trying to change it, your child learns to be less fearful of his or her own feelings. Rumination (worry) is much less likely once the original feeling has been acknowledged. When you are in the habit of acknowledging and accepting the child’s fear or concern, the child learns to accept his or her own feelings as well and this causes them to release quickly.

Help Your Child Access Positive Imagination
Children often have wild imaginations. This imagination is commonly used to conjure up thoughts of bad things happening (i.e. robbers breaking in, a dog attacking him/her, etc…). Teach your child how to imagine good things happening instead. Show him how to imagine guardians, angels, friendly lions or knights etc. Imagination can be a powerful tool. For a young child, make up stories that employ protective images. If you are raising children within a faith-based framework, draw on this resource. Consult the teachings of your faith and pass these on to your child. Research shows that people of all ages who draw on their faith actually do much better emotionally, suffering less worry and stress in the long run.

Techniques to Calm the Mind
Breathwork and other forms of meditation can help retrain and calm a worried mind. Teaching a child to focus on his breath for even three minutes a day is a very powerful way to introduce him to the idea that he has some control over his thought process. By paying attention to the “in” breath and the “out” breath for just a few minutes, the child can have a mini-vacation from worry. He can turn for that vacation as part of his daily routine AND whenever he is feeling stressed from his own worrying process.For instance, instruct your child to think the word “In” when he’s breathing in and to think the word “Out” when he’s breathing out. Focusing on the breath in this way for even three minutes, produces powerful anti-anxiety chemistry in the brain.

Refocus Attention
Worriers focus on the negative – all the things that can go wrong. The worrier eventually builds up a strong negative tendency in the brain, automatically looking for worst case scenarios at every opportunity. To help counter this brain development, teach your youngster  how to notice the good in his or her life. For instance, institute a dinner time or bedtime ritual that acknowledges all the things that are going right in life, all the ways things are good, all the prayers that have been answered, etc.  A few minutes of this practice each day can be enough to stimulate a new direction of neural development in the  brain. Self-help techniques like EFT (emotional freedom technique) can be very helpful for people who worry.

Use Bibliotherapy (read stories)
Ask your local librarian for suggestions for age-appropriate books and movies that highlight children’s abilities to courageously and effectively face challenges and solve problems. Such stories can help reduce a child’s sense of helplessness and vulnerability.

Talk about Resilience
If your child worries about terrorism, war and other threats to personal safety, address the worry directly. Keep in mind that with all the forms of media available today, it has become increasingly hard to shield a child from disturbing news and images. Therefore, trying to protect your child from such things should not be your goal. Instead, focus on giving your child the information he needs to feel reasonably safe and secure and then acknowledge that there is no absolute guarantees that bad things won’t happen. You can convey that people have always been able to “step up to the plate” and handle what comes their way. People can face adversity with courage. If you know some examples in your family life or in your community, share them with your child. You can also look to the larger world and select some heroes who have clearly demonstrated the human capacity to cope with challenge and difficulty. This approach is more helpful and calming than making false promises that nothing will ever go wrong in your child’s life.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. For worries, you can give your child the flower remedy called White Chestnut. White Chestnut helps calm a “noisy” brain. If your child experiences specific worries, such as a fear of that someone will get hurt or fear of illness, you can offer the remedy Mimulus. For vague or unclear fears (i.e. scared of the dark) you can use the remedy Aspen. Walnut is used for those who are strongly affected by learning about bad things happening in the media or other places. You can mix remedies together and take them at the same time. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the fear or worry has dissipated. Start treatment again, if the fear or worry returns. Eventually, the fear or worry should diminish completely.

Worry as an Anxiety Disorder
When a child’s worry does not respond to home treatment or when it is causing significant distress or interfering with the youngster’s functioning at home or school, assessment by a mental health professional is important.  The child may have a mental health disorder that can benefit from treatment. For instance, excessive and chronic worry is a symptom found in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In GAD, worry symptoms are often accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, restlessness, and trouble sleeping. In other words, the worry habit can also make child feel physically unwell. A mental health professional can assess and effectively treat excessive worry, helping your child to enjoy a healthier, less stressful life.

Motor Tics (Twitches and Jerks)

Motor tics are repetitive, involuntary movements. They are like an itch that just must be scratched – a person may wait or delay the urge to tic, but in the end, just has to do it. A tic can manifest as eye-blinking, shoulder shrugging, head bobbing, upper body jerks, knee bending and any other repetitive movement. Some include head-banging and picking at one’s skin in this category as well, although these behaviors are technically disorders in their own right.

If the tics last less than a year and cause distress during that time, they may be diagnosed as “transient tic disorder.” If they last more than a year and are never absent for more than three consecutive months, and they cause some distress, they may be diagnosed as “chronic tic disorder.”

If motor tics occur along with vocal tics (grunts, barks, coughs, words, mental words and so on), causing significant distress, then “Tourette’s Syndrome” might be diagnosed. Only a doctor or clinical psychologist can provide an accurate diagnosis. All tics are thought to have a biological basis and some medications can “unmask” (trigger) a latent tic condition. Medications for ADD/ADHD, for instance, have been known to trigger tic disorders in vulnerable individuals. The term “nervous tic” does not pertain to motor tic disorder. One needn’t be nervous at all to have a tic disorder. In fact, tic disorders are thought to be inherited and related to other brain disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and ADHD. Indeed, many kids have all three disorders together.

Helping Your Child with Motor Tics
Although “causing distress” is part of the diagnostic criteria of a motor tic disorder, it is a fact that PARENTS might be more distressed by the child’s movements than is the child him or herself. In fact, the  parent may feel anxious or very annoyed by them. There can be a definite urge to scream “STOP DOING THAT!”  However, tic movements are outside both the realm of the parent’s control and the child’s control. This lack of control can  also cause distress to the child. Children may find their movements to be embarrassing in public situations. For this reason, they may strive to hold back an urge to tic while out of the house, only to “let loose” once in the privacy of home, “tic’ing” with a vengeance. It’s like having an itch that you stall until you get home and then you scratch madly to address the build-up of the tension.

Asking the child to refrain from doing his or her tic DOES NOT WORK and may even lead to an  increase in  tic activity because of the stress that the demand induces. When children feel watched or rejected for making movements, they’ll actually make MORE movements!

Although chronic tic disorders are considered to be really chronic –  lasting a lifetime –  many people do experience spontaneous remission. That is, the tics just disappear on their own at some point. Sometimes neurological or psychotropic medications can help and may be an appropriate intervention when motor tics are severe and having a negative impact in the child’s life.  Speak to your doctor about these possibilities. Sometimes behavioral therapies can help (find a psychologist who is experienced in the treatment of tic disorders). Bach Flower Remedies have helped many people with tic disorders (consult a practitioner for an individualized, appropriate formula for your child) and some people have benefited from homeopathic treatment and other alternative treatments. EFT (emotional freedom technique) may help some people with tic disorders. In fact, any form of alternative medicine that reduces physical and mental stress, may have a beneficial effect on the course of a tic disorder – one must experiment in order to find out if a particular treatment will help his or her child. And, as stated previously, some children and teens just “grow out of them” over time.

Vocal Tics (Sounds and Noises)

Some children (and adults) make repetitive sounds that serve no communicative or health purpose. These sounds are called “vocal tics.” A vocal tic can be a cough, much like the cough one has when one has a cold, except that in the case of a tic – there is no cold and consequently no need to clear the passages of mucous! Sometimes the doctor will mistake this kind of cough for post-nasal drip – a small irritant in the throat. However, a true vocal tic is more like a bodily habit without a physical cause; there is no post-nasal drip. In addition, the cough does not stem from “nerves” or nervousness and therefore, it is also inaccurate to call it a “nervous habit.” A vocal tic is a biological disorder that is usually inherited. Calm people can have tics just as easily as anxious people. Nonetheless, stress does tend to aggravate tics, resulting in a temporary increase in symptoms.

Coughs are only one kind of vocal tic. A person can make any sound, including words. There are barks, hisses, grunts, sniffles, clicks and other noises. There are words or phrases that are repeated and in one kind of vocal tic (corprolalia), there are expletives (swear words) or “dirty words” that seem to jump out of nowhere.

If a child has both vocal tics and motor tics (repetitive, non-purposeful movements like jerking, bobbing, twitching and so on), he may have Tourette’s Syndrome. If he has only one kind of tic for less than a year, he may have transient tic disorder. Chronic Tic Disorder is the name given to tics that last longer than one year. Some children with tic disorders also have other disorders such as ADHD, OCD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and conduct disorders. Many children, however, have simple tic disorders that improve with treatment or even on their own over time.

What Causes Tics?
Brain abnormalities can cause tics. Both structural changes in the brain and biochemical changes have been found in those who have tic disorders. Tic disorders run in family trees. Tic disorders commence before the age of 18. Sometimes they begin after taking a medicine (i.e. Ritalin, antidepressant medication, Cylert and Cocaine can all trigger tics in sensitive individuals). Sometimes tics may begin after a strep infection (in a similar way to PANDAS – the post-viral form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Sometimes injuries or other health conditions (even a common cold) can trigger the development of a tic. In all cases, the environment is thought to trigger a gene that is present in the child.

Although more tics occur when a child is feeling stressed or anxious, neither stress nor anxiety cause tics. Emotional distress worsens or aggravates a tic disorder temporarily. Stress reduction techniques bring tics back under control. The condition waxes and wanes – sometimes throughout life, but very commonly only until the end of adolescence when the tics may just disappear by themselves.

What Helps Tics?
Some medications can be helpful for tics – speak to your doctor or psychiatrist about this approach. Behavioral therapy can also be very helpful in reducing the tendency to tic. A psychologist can create the proper intervention for this kind of therapy. In addition, some alternative treatments have been found to be helpful in treating tics. For instance, nutritional interventions such as abstaining from coffee, pesticides, certain chemicals and so on, can sometimes help. Bach Flower Therapy (especially the remedy called Agrimony) has been very helpful for some children and teens with tics – consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for best results. Homeopathy and acupuncture might also be helpful. In fact, any intervention that helps reduce stress can help reduce the tendency to tic. Experimenting with several different healing modalities will help parents assess which one or ones have a positive effect on the course of the disorder.

Asking a child to stop making noises is NOT helpful and in fact, may lead to more tic behavior as the request itself induces stress. Tics are not done on purpose and they CANNOT be resisted. A child can delay a tic, but not stop it. Therefore, the youngster needs parental understanding and tolerance. The tic is not the child’s fault; rather, he or she is suffering from a disorder of the brain. Fortunately, tic disorders can be relatively mild, they can remit spontaneously and even when they do persist, they do not tend to interfere with academic performance or other normal functioning.

Helping Kids Through Trauma and PTSD

We all deal with stress everyday. Rushing to get to school in time, making ends meet during a recession, dealing with a particularly annoying in-law — stress is a part of life. And in most occasions, the stress we face is manageable.

But some sources of stress can be incredibly intense, overwhelming and beyond our physical and/or emotional resources to deal with. When this happens, the stressful event is said to be traumatic. All parents want to protect their children from things that can unsettle or harm them. But sadly, there are many things in life that even the most conscientious of parents can’t control. Our children may witness or experience traumatic events despite our best efforts to shield them. When this happens, they may have difficulty bouncing back. Sleep disturbances, sadness, anger and fear may plague a traumatized child long after the traumatic event has ended.

What is a Trauma?
Trauma is a psychological reaction to highly stressful events, particularly those that threaten life or safety. When an experience is considered traumatic, it means that the coping resources of the person witnessing or experiencing it are not enough to deal with the impact of the event, and some degree of psychological shock or breakdown occurs. Events that most people consider traumatic include vehicular accidents, crimes, natural disasters and physical or sexual abuse. Although parents may think that trauma results only from catastrophic events like war or rape, it can actually occur as a result of more normal and common events. For instance, a child can be traumatized by being chased by a dog, by a harsh reprimand from a teacher, from a threatening bully, or from being laughed at while giving an oral report. What makes an event traumatic differs from person to person, as individual coping abilities must be taken into account. Personality factors, psychological profile and past history all play a role in producing a traumatic reaction.

A trauma response often includes symptoms like reliving the event over and over again (by obsessing about it; experiencing intrusive thoughts that interrupt thoughts and activities), panic attacks, nightmares, numbness & fog responses, avoiding people, places and things that trigger a memory of the event, depressed and/or angry mood and increased nervousness (startle response).

Trauma can initiate a syndrome that shows up long after the traumatic event or events have ended. Like an initial trauma response, it affects physical and emotional functioning causing nightmares, hypervigilance, panic attacks, intrusive memories, numbness and other symptoms; the syndrome is called PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can occur weeks, years or decades after the traumatic events have passed.

Those who have some level of anxiety to begin with and those who have suffered several previous traumatic incidents are more likely to develop PTSD than other people. Lack of a support system or lack of adequate emotional support right after a trauma, also increases the chances of developing PTSD later on.

What is the Best Way to Handle PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can be effectively treated. Self-help is part of the process for teens and adults, including finding support groups, reading up on PTSD, engaging in effective stress-management routines (including regular exercise, relaxation techniques and routines for self-care), utilizing alternative treatments to strengthen the nervous system (such as herbal remedies, Bach Flower Therapy, Aromatherapy, homeopathy, accupuncture and so forth). Parents can help incorporate calming strategies into a child’s routines.

Parental support is critical when a child is dealing with trauma. Unlike adults, younger children don’t yet have the ability to understand what they are going through. Not only is the original event traumatic, but their trauma symptoms too, can be traumatic. For instance, physical symptoms like tremors and nightmares, mental symptoms like obsessions and hallucinations, and emotional symptoms like fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for a child to be experiencing.

The first line of business is to help children manage their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. A traumatized child may talk about the same thing over and over again, and this is okay. The content of the sharing is less important than the process of getting things out. If a child finds difficulty in expressing what he is going through verbally, either because of age or because of the trauma, then consider non-verbal ways of venting emotions. Letting it all out can also be done using drawings and pictures, clay sculptures and toys, play-acting, and storytelling.

Second, give your child a rational explanation of the traumatic event, that is appropriate to his or her age. The more information the child has, the less he or she is likely to generalize the event to other situations. For instance, knowing that a car crashed because it skidded on the snow can help a child feel safe in cars with good snow tires and in cars driving on dry roads. Without this information, the child may conclude that all cars are dangerous at all times. (While this is in fact true, the healthy state of mind is one of sufficient denial that a person can comfortably drive and be driven at all times. Phobic and traumatized people, on the other hand, over-exaggerate the likelihood of a catastrophic event occurring again, such that they can’t live in a normal way.)

When a child is suffering rather mild symptoms, parents may find that self-help interventions are sufficient. For instance, learning how to do EFT (emotional freedom technique) with the child may complete calm the youngster’s nervous system. However, parents may prefer to take their child to a child psychologist who practices EFT or EMDR. Both of these techniques are used to rapidly heal the trauma of one-time events. If the child is experiencing many symptoms of trauma, it is essential that parents DO NOT try the self-help approach. Instead, they should take their child to a mental health professional who is specifically trained in the treatment of PTSD.

The Bach Flower Remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can help reduce temporary and chronic symptoms of trauma and is especially effective for home-management of symptoms in between psychotherapy sessions. If you are aware that the child has just suffered a traumatic event (like watching someone get badly injured or being personally assaulted, injured or threatened), offer Rescue Remedy immediately. It may help prevent a traumatic reaction from setting in.

However, the fastest and most effective way to end the debilitating symptoms of PTSD is to get the proper professional help. Not all mental health professionals are equally trained in the treatment of PTSD. Make sure that your practitioner is! Therapeutic interventions include EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing), EFT and other forms of Energy Psychology, TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction),  and other specific tools for the treatment of trauma.

The good news is that children respond well to treatment of trauma. They can experience a complete healing of their symptoms and a return to “normalcy.” In fact, child are often even happier, calmer and more mature after trauma therapy than they were before the traumatic event(s) occurred.

Nightmares

Everyone dreams. Most people probably remember having at least one nightmare – a very frightening dream. There are some people who are bothered by regular nightmares, so much so that they don’t want to go to sleep. This can happen to children as well as to adults. After experiencing a traumatic event, people can have nightmares virtually nightly, until the trauma is resolved. Whether it’s once in a blue moon or a regular occurrence, a child’s nightmare always requires parental attention.

If your child has had nightmares, consider the following tips:

Some Kids are Sensitive to Images
Some kids are particularly vulnerable to scary images they see in books, movies and on T.V.. They can also create their own frightening images based on what they hear in snippets of conversations around them.  It isn’t possible to always shelter kids from unpleasant images, but parents can certainly respect the child’s vulnerability and try to limit frightening stimulation – for example, there is no need to insist that a child confront a disturbing image that is only recreational in nature (i.e a violent movie). If a child has come across a disturbing image, parents can help the child to talk about it, both accepting the child’s fear and also explaining the pretend-nature of the picture. For children whose vivid imaginations and sensitivity often lead to nightmares, parents can try offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut – a harmless, water-based form of vibrational medicine available at health food stores everywhere. Give two drops in liquid (water, juice, milk, etc.) four times a day until the nightmares stop. Or, for nightmares about ghosts and other vague, scary fantasies, try the Bach Remedy called Aspen. The remedy Mimulus can help with nightmares about more specific fears, such as people dying or scary events like being robbed or chased. A Bach Flower practitioner can help further. You may also find more information about Bach Flower Remedies on this site.

Nightmares can be Triggered by Food Sensitivities
If there is no other apparent reason for the nightmares, you might consider the possibility of food sensitivities. Sometimes such sensitivities can chemical processes that can cause nightmares. Any food can cause problems, so you might need a systematic approach to food elimination in order to find out if there is a sensitivity. Naturopaths and self-help books can help with the process, or you might be able to find a medical specialist who tests for sensitivities (not allergies).

Consider Stress or Traumatic Events
If your child has experienced a stressful event or situation lately (i.e. medical or dental procedures, moving, a mean teacher, examinations, and so on), or even a traumatic experience (car accident, robbery, bullying, assault, family violence), then it’s possible that the nightmare is a sign that he or she is having difficulty coping with the situation. If a child who recently experienced the death of a loved one, for example, gets recurring nightmares, it’s possible that there are feelings he or she can’t identify or express. The child may also have experienced some sort of traumatic or overwhelming experience that you aren’t aware of – at school, at a place of worship, at an extracurricular activity, while volunteering or babysitting or even in your own home with his or her siblings or other relatives.  If you KNOW that something stressful has happened, be sure to talk to your child, naming the feelings that YOU would have if you were dealing with that situation. Help the child to express his or her feelings by using Emotional Coaching  (learn how to use this technique in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Unremitting nightmares should always best checked out by a child psychologist.

Medicines, Substances and Illness
Certain health conditions can trigger nightmares, as can mind-altering substances and even over-the-counter medications. Withdrawal from substances can also trigger nightmares. If your child has been unwell or on medication and is having unusual nightmares, speak to the pediatrician.

Ways to Help Your Child
Accept your child’s fear and anxiety. Saying things like, “It’s not real. Go back to sleep,” doesn’t do anything to comfort a child and may even make them feel ashamed simply for having a normal reaction. Remember: to a young child, a dream can be so vivid, it feels like it actually happened. Go slowly and gently, taking time to calm and soothe your child to help orient him back to reality. Give a hug or a kiss or rub his or her back. Get him or her a glass of water or even a cracker to munch on, as eating and drinking are “grounding” activities that bring a child back into his body and away from the fantasy in his head. Putting a few drops of Rescue Remedy in the water can be particularly helpful, or even dropping them on a child’s wrists will work (Rescue Remedy is available in health food stores and is a harmless Bach Flower Remedy that quickly turns off adrenaline and restores emotional balance in cases where the fight-or-flight response has been activated.)

After a bad dream, separation anxiety may re-surface. Kids may demand that you stay with them as they go back to sleep, or they might insist on following you back to your room. They may also put up a big fuss when you attempt to leave their presence. Remember that these responses to terrifying dreams are all normal. Because your child is feeling fearful and maybe even disoriented and confused, make the exception if possible, and indulge his or her need for physical presence.

Nightmares are ultimately fantasy, so fantasy is an excellent way to deal with them. If your child’s nightmare did not have a happy ending, perhaps you can continue the story together — with your child emerging triumphant against the object of his or her fear. For instance, if the nightmare is about being attacked by monsters, a child can be encouraged to pretend that he or she is a “monster exterminator.” The child can role-play assertively warning the monster that he’s toast, and capturing the monster with special weapons. Although this may seem silly, this very strategy is used very successfully to help victims of trauma to deal with their terrifying nightmares.

Help Your Child Cope with the Aftereffects of a Nightmare
Sometimes the fear isn’t just an aftershock to a nightmare. It’s also possible that a nightmare creates worry that tragedy will happen in real life. For example, dreaming that a loved one died can create fear in a child that the loved one will indeed pass away. Gently but firmly explain to your child that just because something happened in a dream doesn’t mean it will happen in real life. At the same time, acknowledge your child’s fear. For instance, you can say something like, “I understand that you’re worried that Grandpa will die because he died in your dream. That must make you feel very sad.” When you name the child’s feeling, the feeling will intensify (often to the point of tears) and then disappear. In this example, the child might cry when the parent acknowledges the sad thought and then the child might say, “Anyway, it was just a dream. I know Grandpa is fine.” Allowing a person to feel his feelings is a fast way of helping that person to clear the negative feelings out of his system.

Help Your Child Prevent Nightmares
If a nightmare has really made a child feel helpless and victimized, you can teach him ways on how to manipulate images in a dream. While controlling one’s dreams takes practice to learn to do, the steps are child-friendly. Just encourage kids to visualize their desired dream content when they get to bed (“think of something nice that you’d like to dream about”), and remind themselves that they are just dreaming when faced with bad dream content. They can wake themselves up and change their focus to a positive storyline as they fall asleep again.

In addition, using effective stress management techniques before bed can help alleviate bad dreams. For instance, you might teach your child EFT (emotional freedom technique – there’s lots of on-line resources for this technique as well as therapists who can teach it to your child) so that the child can remove worries, fears and problems from his mind before falling asleep (YOU should learn it too!). This helps the mind have a better, more peaceful rest.

For a recurring nightmare, ask the child to create a satisfactory ending for the bad dream. Have him tell you the dream along with the new ending. Have him do it over and over until he feels calm. If he’s old enough, he can also write and rewrite the new dream, helping to install it deeper in his unconscious mind.

Therapeutic Bedtime Stories
Parents can make up healing bedtime stories for young children. One way to do this is to create a main character whose name just happens to be the same name as that of your frightened child. By way of example, let’s call the main character in our story “Liam.” The title of the series of stories is “Liam the Brave.” You now make up a different story each night about episodes starring Liam-the-Brave. In each story, Liam fights off scary foes using his arsenal of magic weapons. For instance, on Monday night, Liam-the-Brave takes a canoe trip down the river in deepest Africa. As he passes through the tropical jungle, he encounters crocodiles, warrior tribes, hungry animals and more. Every time he faces a threat, he pulls out a magic weapon from his magic weapon bag and aims it at the “enemy.” By waving, shaking or otherwise triggering the weapon, Liam successfully makes the threat vanish into thin air. He then continues on his trip, observing the beautiful waterfalls, plants and friendly animals, until the next threat appears. And so on. Of course, the story always ends happily with Liam arriving at his destination. On Tuesday night, the parent tells a similar story, this time taking place in outer space. On Wednesday night, the events may take place in the Antarctic and so on. Although the stories are nonsensical, they have been shown to give children a sense of power over internal enemies. Try them for a week or so and see if they help end your child’s nightmares and his fear of having bad dreams.

Consider Professional Help
Your child should not have to suffer from regular nightmares. Be sure to speak to your doctor and/or a child psychologist if your interventions have not resolved the problem.