Nightmares are common among toddlers, at one point they will experience "the scaries", that is, being scared of monsters, shadows, or being alone in the dark. Nightmares are part of your child's development and what we can do is help and support them. Remember: even though monsters are not real, the fear they feel is very real. You can find more information on how to help here.
Before bedtime, kids might start experiencing some anxiety, telling you they are scared of something or scared they might dream with something scary. Creating visualizations helps them get the "scary" idea out of their heads and give them a little more control over their thoughts.
To help you and your little one visualize something fun, you can use what I call "Dream Cards". These dream cards are images of things your kid likes and make him happy, for example, his favorite TV or book character, a place, or a person he loves.
How do Dream Cards work?
Pick characters your kid loves and print them or draw them on a piece of paper. (Scroll below for a free printable).
After bedtime routine (this should be the last thing you do before turning the lights off ), ask your child, what would you like to dream of tonight? You can grab the cards and show them to your child so that she can pick one. I recommend not to have more than five, or you'll spend way too much time waiting for her to decide.
After picking one, start talking about the dream she wants to have, for example: "So, you are dreaming with unicorns, that is so nice! What do you like about unicorns?" Let her elaborate and help her if she needs it. "Wow, and does the unicorn in your dreams have special powers? Are you going with the unicorn on this adventure?" It is better to spend a few minutes doing this than trying to convince her there is nothing to be afraid of.
Leave the dream card she picked near her bed (I laminated my daughter's and I use tape to stick it on her nightstand), and tell her that if she wakes up in the middle of the night she can look at the dream card and remind herself of the nice and happy dream she was supposed to have.
If you do come to her room in the middle of the night because she is afraid, try to use the dream card again, and remind her that she can do it by herself. Remember that what we are trying to do is give our children the tools to calm by themselves.
This tool helps them feel more in control of what happens when lights are out and in control of their dreams.
Here are some free printable options; you can print a blank page and use stickers or draw something. I hope your little one likes them!