I’ve come across a couple of themes in my practice this past month (1) strange or scary dreams (2) increased anxiety and scary thoughts.
This is especially troublesome for children who may not be able to connect their dreams and fears to things such as a lack of sleep, changes in weather, darkness, or feeling unwell.
Fears and nightmares in children are partly normal in their developmental stages. Our knee jerk reaction as parents and caregivers is to comfort our kids by saying things such as “just don’t think about it, it’s not real, ignore it, or distract yourself.”
Self soothing is definitely a valuable skill and kids will benefit from that skill throughout their lives. But, I would like to invite you to shift the way you discuss your children’s fears with them.
How? Through mindfulness…
Mindfulness is such a profound way to manage stress, anxiety, fears, and worries for adults and children alike. This doesn’t mean spending 20 minutes in stillness – I don’t think any child could sit still and quiet for 20 minutes!!
You can get very creative with mindfulness. It doesn’t have be a time-consuming activity. Kids are able to process and comprehend SO much more than we would ever understand or give them credit for. They are also very literal and learn best when being able to utilize their rich imaginations.
Here is just a few ways kids can practice mindfulness…
- Through drawing
- Talking with a trusted friend or adult
- Movement – exercise, sports, dancing, etc.
- Breathing – try some of the breathing exercises on our past blog here
If your little one is experiencing worry thoughts and fears right before bedtime I have the perfect mindfulness activity for you to try with them.
I love to practice this one with my own kids!
Worry Thought Mindfulness Practice for Kids
While laying in bed or even before bedtime, have an open and honest conversation about their fears. They might be afraid to talk about it but reassure them that when we share our fears, those fears lose some of their power.
Once you’ve heard their fears, ask your child to imagine when a thought pops into their head that they are able to put that thought in a bubble and toss it up to the sky (the Universe, God, Heaven – whatever your belief system may be). When the thought is thrown into the sky it is dealt with and it is no longer a fear swimming around in your head.
Repeat as often as necessary!
This is an excellent mindfulness exercise that can be utilized by kids and can become a tool that they will carry along with them into adulthood.