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The 8 bad dreams your kids are most likely having … explained

Your child’s bad dreams can tell you a lot about their states of mind. Here’s an interpretation of each and how you can help them overcome their fears. 

Around age 4, many children begin to develop dark and unsettling fears about things adults can’t always understand. And what they fail at explaining to us during the day doesn’t always just go away — it often pops up at night, in the form of nightmares about boogie men, vampires, shadows that chase them or creepy-crawly spiders and bugs that won’t leave them alone.

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Of course, even these horrible dreams are a sign that our children are developing and acquiring normal and healthy anxieties about the world around them and things they can’t explain. Let’s face it: The universe can be a frightening and phenomenal place that brings stress upon the most put-together of adults, so why would we not expect our children to work out their emotions through the occasional bad dream?

Instead of cursing our children’s bad dreams and all the sleepless nights and nights spent in Mom and Dad’s bed that go hand-in-hand with them, we should start thinking of dreams as a priceless guide that give us insight into our little ones’ mental well-being. As Dr. Barbara Condron, an author who has been teaching dream recall, interpretation and lucidity through her association with the School of Metaphysics since 1975, explains, when equipped with the right tools and knowledge, parents can help their kids overcome their nightmares and the fears that create them.

Condron interprets what eight common nightmares mean and how we can help our children deal with their dreams and jitters.

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child nightmares
Image: Design via Karen Cox/SheKnows; Image via Getty Images

1. Nightmares about bugs and spiders in the room or crawling on their skin

“Nightmares of bugs and spiders point to the development of habits that your child is resisting,” Condron says. “This could be anything from brushing teeth every morning to the task of learning multiplication tables at school, or perhaps resisting telling ‘little white lies.'”

Remedy: “Clear your child’s sleeping space by changing the bed linen with your child, as this empowers them to make a change and to take charge by doing something productive.”

2. Dreams about monsters/ghosts that don’t exist

“Monsters can appear in dreams at any age. These imaginary creatures reflect an ego that seems beyond our control. For a child, this can be pretending to be more or better than what is true or reacting to feeling pushed into a role, like the first day of school. Ghosts are usually tied to something that occurred in the past that is returning inappropriately. A context that might bring this dream could involve a divorce. Daytime memories of ‘what was’ can be painful to a child and appear in a nighttime dream as ghosts.”

Remedy: “Watch and wait, while engaging your child completely in the present time rather than the future or past.”

3. Dreams in which they are left all alone and can’t find a parent

“These dreams are archetypal. They are rites-of-passage dreams where the child is stretching during the daytime, being expected to reference the self for answers and direction, while still feeling the need for security.”

Remedy: “Use this as an opportunity to separate day dreaming — we (the parents) are not going anywhere — and night dreaming. This dream is actually about how you grew up in unexpected ways yesterday.”

4. Dreaming that a big animal, like a lion, is trying to eat them

“Most animals in a dream symbolize the dreamer’s habits. The Dreamer’s Dictionary states, ‘The lion who scares you in a dream may be indicating your resistance to your own courage.'”

Remedy: “Suggest your child act out the dream. Dream re-enactment is an honored tradition in many indigenous populations to free the dreamer from fear. It works, try it!”

5. Bad dream about one of their toys coming to life

“These dreams are often media-driven. In other words, the child has seen this scenario in a cartoon or movie, the idea ‘stuck,’ and now it appears as a symbol in the dream.”

Remedy: “Be choosy about the images you expose your child to.”

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6. Nightmare that they have no friends at school or everyone starts laughing at them in class

“When Riley relocates to San Francisco in [Disney film] Inside Out, her anxiety about the first day of class reaches into her dream that night. This illustrates what I call the ‘dream consciousness circuit,’ the link between day dreaming and night dreaming that taps into who we really are as spirit, mind and body. Understanding this link is priceless in self-development at any age.”

Remedy: “Talk openly about your child’s day and listen to their dreams without prejudice. NEVER say, ‘It was just a dream.’ Most children know better.”

7. Dreaming that someone or something is chasing them and they can’t get escape

“This is one of the top 10 most common dreams at any age. When your child has this dream, look for someone or something that she or he is avoiding. Maybe someone at school, perhaps a task or accomplishing a goal will give you a place to begin.”

Remedy: “Watch, ask questions and listen.”

8. Dreaming of falling

“Another of the top 10 most common dreams, falling is a dream symbol reflecting a lack of control or ease in expressing the Self. This can be lacking the right words to say, or knowing how to act, in a situation. This is a common experience for children who are just learning how to meet life face-to-face.”

Remedy: “Encourage your child to fly in the dream!”

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