We moved to South Africa when my daughter was 2 years old. Along with the excitement of a new adventure with God came her nightmares. I remember she would wake up in the middle of the night just crying. It was quite an effort to calm her down. When the nightmares continued, I knew we had to take some measures to help our little girl. If your kid’s struggle with bad dreams, read on to see what worked for us.
We settled into a very structured bedtime routine which was the key for her. Kids like structure. It has a way of making them feel safe. They know what’s coming. They know what to expect, and they find comfort in that. Our structure involved 4 elements every single night. The only revolving items were the topics of discussion and book reading. I got to a place where I could literally repeat our bedtime routine in my sleep!
A conversation with a two-year-old can be quite interesting and fun. You never know what you’re going to get. We found that talk time was an excellent way to create a safe space for her to just talk about whatever she wanted. She had our undivided attention, and it was an open place for her to just speak. Girls, especially, like that!
Books are a great way to get kids settled in and the perfect opportunity to choose a topic that’s relevant to the situation. From faith to peace to love, stories grab the heart, and picture books create great visuals for the words on the page. God Bless You And Good Night is a great one to have in your library. The silly rhymes are a reminder of God’s love are the perfect combination to soothe your child into a good night’s sleep. Plus reading books regularly gives your children a love for reading that is beneficial for years to come.
For about 8 years, we sang the exact same songs every night…Jesus Loves Me, The B-I-B-L-E, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and an original song that was written by my son. If we got out of order, she would stop us, and we would have to start over. The bad dreams didn’t last for seven years, but the routine stuck, and so we continued until she decided he was too old for songs.
Of course, prayer is always the biggest component of a bad-dream-averting bedtime routine. Jesus cares for the little children as evidenced in the gospels.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
As with the songs, we prayed the exact same prayer every night, asking Jesus to guard her mind and her heart and to be with her. I knew He was faithful to that prayer because it didn’t take long for our girl to start sleeping peacefully through the night.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13, 14
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I can’t remember exactly when her bad dreams stopped, but I know that having structure worked for her. The repetition of doing our bedtime routine for 8 years also gave her the tools to be able to calm herself when she’s feeling fearful or anxious. She’s 13 now, and nightmares are a thing of the past. She’s the best sleeper in our house, by far!
Have your kids struggled with bad dreams? What have you found that works to help them sleep peacefully?