The fastest way from Hey! to Zzzz
First, a little test. Do you recognise any of these scenarios?
“Daddy, I want more sweets.”
“Look! The sun’s come out! Let’s go to the park.”
Or how about this one:
“Daddy, what is that place called with the big yellow bridges and the funny man?”
“Wow, have you seen what Mummy can do with a breadstick?” (Aside to wife: “Quick, do something amazing.” Wife: “What the hell…?”)
“Daddy, why has that lady on your computer got no clothes on?”
“What are you doing downstairs? Go to bed!”
Whoops! Maybe not that last one. A friend told me that one.
Parents are experts in feats of distraction and misdirection. But when it comes to that blood-curdling cry in the middle of the night – the one that goes “Daddy, I’ve had a bad dream!” – you’re going to need something a bit more impressive than Mummy’s impromptu breadstick trick.
So next time Junior wakes up from a nightmare at some ungodly hour, demanding solace, here’s one you might try. And let’s face it, at that time of the night, you’ll try anything.
After a bit of reassurance, tell them that you’re going to cook up a great dream for them, far better than the one they’ve had. Ask them to think of a word beginning with ‘x’. (Don’t actually choose ‘x’, obviously, especially not if you’ve been leaving any dodgy DVDs around. Like my, erm, friend.) My 4-year old found this surprisingly hard, perhaps because I was asking her to apply cognitive skills at 3am, so I often gave her a few choices. Then ask for another word beginning with another letter, or provide one yourself.
Your task now is to conjure up a magical, attention-grabbing scenario that combines the two.
A couple of recent examples:
Flower and slide: imagine finding a secret door at school, behind which is a huge bright red slide; at the foot of the slide is a swimming pool full of petals to land in, with all your friends playing.
Giraffe and spoon: you’ll receive an invite to a tea party at the zoo, where all the giraffes sit around eating jelly with a spoon. Because they’re not very good at eating, lots of it falls down, and you can run around with your mouth open, eating it all.
You get the idea: make it fun, make it active.
The only danger is that you get carried away, conjuring up a world so fantastic that it prompts an animated discussion. But it’s worked for me on many occasions, turning a tearful, frightened child into one that’s much happier to snuggle down and get back to sleep. In the morning they often insist that the dream actually happened, which suits me just fine.
*How do you talk your child down from nightmares? What do you say to a child who’s afraid of going to sleep? Share your dream tips in the comments.*