Do nightmares plague your child while you feel powerless to fight their fear? My own daughter suffered for many years with violent nightmares. Since I was a single parent, she would begin every night in her own bed, but ultimately end up in mine. It was becoming a habit and I could tell that my comforting her and trying to convince her that her bad dreams were not real and couldn’t hurt her wasn’t making any progress against the nightmares! I sought out help from a prophetic person in my life at the time, and he suggested some simple things. I went home and began to use his suggestions with my daughter. We actually went through these steps and in a very short period of time, she transitioned to rarely having nightmares. Over a period of time, I learned that there was a simple process that was effective for most families who tried it.
We can either create a dependency on us by letting them come to us for prayer and comfort, or we can train our children to develop their own spiritual strength and depend on God for help. I think that either option will make a powerful team. Here is the situation: we can assure them that their dreams aren’t real, but as we know from the Bible, dreams can actually be quite real! Of course, the bad ones we’re talking about here aren’t the kind where God is speaking to us, like He did in the Bible. However, children who are particularly sensitive to spiritual things will also be sensitive while they are asleep.
Here are the steps that I have taught to parents. You and your child should learn the steps, so if your child wakes up with a nightmare or bad dream, they will know what to do. If they have peace after the first one, they can just go back to sleep. Otherwise, they should continue to walk through the steps until they have peace.Then they can go to sleep on their own.
I begin with “….submit to God”. This is a good time to remind your child
that they belong to God and He takes really good care of His children. This could be as easy as telling them to say out loud “I belong to God!”
The other part of this verse says to “rebuke the enemy and he will flee.” This can be as easy as having them say out loud “you need to get out of here!” Step number1 is based on the idea that the child needs to understand and believe that God is big. He is bigger than anyone or anything! There is nothing more powerful. There is no one more powerful! Because of this you can teach your child that whenever they are afraid, they can always trust in God to protect them. You can practice this with your child. We did this in a really fun way with the song “Great Big God, little bitty devil”*. We taught this song to our children’s church and would ask the question: “How big is He?” and the kids would yell back “Great big God!” We would go back and forth like we were having a contest. This may seem simple, but it really planted the idea in the kids that God really is big! They didn’t need to be afraid. Now this is where it is really important for your child to understand a little bit of theology. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit all work together and share power and love for us. Because Jesus is God’s son, he is as powerful as God. That being true, because Jesus lives in us, (or in our kids for this illustration), we share His power and authority over the enemy! Ok – this means that we have the “power” over the enemy. Because of this we can tell the enemy to leave us alone! “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”(1 John 4:4)(“….submit to God,. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:7- 8a)*(“Great Big God “by Robert Critchley 1997 Thank You Music)
When we understand point number one, which establishes our authority
over the enemy, the next step is to strengthen ourselves from the inside. They can begin by praying in their personal prayer language, or tongues, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, has been given to us to strengthen our spirits. This gift is available to anyone who asks for it. Many children have received this gift, and are speaking in their own “special” language. The Bible tells us that tongues are to edify, or build us up, in our faith. When we are strong on the inside, the enemy doesn’t have any place to creep in to our thoughts. All of this is important for our children. They aren’t too young to begin to see for themselves how powerful God is in them.
If your child doesn’t yet have their prayer language, they can begin to pray in English. They can thank Jesus for what they know is true. We enter His gates with thanksgiving. Thankfulness reminds us about what Jesus has done for us in the past. And as we know, if He was there for us in the past, He is definitely right here with us now!(I Corinthians 14:2,4 is an explanation of the purpose of tongues in our personal life)
This third step is very powerful! The Bible says that when we praise Jesus
the enemy has to leave!!! One of the best tools that we can give to our children is the practice of praise. Praise can be described as “who is Jesus” and “what did He do.”This is not something that we can begin to teach in the middle of the night when our kids are terrified. This is done most effectively during the day, at the table, or in the car. With our very young kids you can ask the question: What do we know about God? Who is Jesus? Where is the Holy Spirit? As your kids learn how to answer these questions, the nighttime practice will be very easy. Teach them to begin topraise Jesus. When they are little, it is a game you can play with them. Ask the question “Is Jesus your friend?” or “Does God ever leave you?” If they are older, you can make a pretty chart with a list of these answers on it. They won’t have to think about what praise is or how to do it; they can just read it on the chart. Have them help make the list of praise. If you put them on a chalk board, you can change them occasionally, until they understand how to find praise from within their own mind. Once you have your list or poster made, hang it on the wall near their bed. When they wake up always have them say the statements out loud. There is something about seeing and hearing something that helps make it more real to children.
Psalm 9:1,3 says “I will praise You, O Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works… When my enemies turn back, they shall fall and perish at Your presence.” I believe that the enemy hates it when Jesus is exalted, and will leave just to avoid having to hear about Him!
This last step is the easiest. Let your children sing or hum along with a CD
or iPod. If they loose sleep over something, isn’t it nice that it is in worship rather than fearful dreams? I would make your own playlist of gentle or powerful songs that your children really love. Go through this with them. Let it be music that they can relate to. It should be their playlist, not your favorites. You might be surprised at how strong of an opinion the very young can have! If they want very stimulating music, you can guide them by giving them a choice from a list. Even if it’s their list, lead them with questions like “do you want this song, or that one?” Having a CD player near the bed is helpful. Some parents automatically put worship music on in their child’s room. This is fine, but for the nightmares, save the special playlist CD for the worship occasion.
If the nightmares happen very often, it is good to have soft worship music playing in your child’s room as they are falling asleep. It is also a good habit to listen to worship music when it isn’t bedtime (the car is a great place) where the kids are familiar with the music. If it’s new music it might keep them awake especially if it’schildren’s worship music. You don’t want to find ways to stir them up!
1. I belong to God so I can rebuke the enemy: God is BIG, the enemy is tiny! Jesus in us makes us powerful!
2. Pray in prayer language (if child doesn’t have prayer language, just have them pray asking the Holy Spirit to surround them with peace and God’s presence)
3. Begin to talk about Who Jesus is:Jesus is my best friend God has known me all my life, even before I was born! The Holy Spirit comforts me Jesus will never leave me Jesus is strong God is happy with me and jumps up and spins over me with joy! Jesus loves me God is my Father Holy Spirit guides me Jesus knows me He likes me God protects me Nighttime and daytime are the same to God The Holy Spirit surrounds me
4. Begin to worship Put on the child’s playlist of music that will remind them of God’s presence. Make it something that you have done with them. Have a CD player or iPodclose so this isn’t a big deal.
Some simple suggestions:
Be careful about what your kids are watching in movies or on television. Now, I’m not much of a censor, as I chose to watch the things that my kids were interested in with them. This way we could talk about it and I could know about the things that they were curious about. All of this was age appropriate, of course. I didn’t want to create an abnormal curiosity in them that would make forbidden things even moreenticing. So things with “magic” or battle between good and evil were things that we watched together. It was easy for them to understand that there are things that are pretend, and things that reflect “real” things that are truly evil. They learned, instead of just avoided unmentionable subjects. Now, having said that? I am really sensitive to spiritual things and personally need to avoid movies that are fine for other people. I have made it a practice to not put things like horror movies into my mind. There are times that I even need to avoid some of my favorite investigative programs that tend to be graphic. I am aware that I have really intense dream activity after watching some of them. This isn’t always true, but I am careful during high stress “seasons” in my own life. So, if this is true as an adult, it is especially important to monitor your kid’s media intake. Especially if they seem to be having a lot of “bad” dream activity.
I think it is wise to remove posters or pictures in their room that might befrightening to your child. Sometimes a child’s imagination can take simple imagesand blow them out of proportion. I had a friend that told me recently that whenshe was young, there was a towel hanging in her room that took on a frightening appearance when it was dark. It just might be good to lie on your child’s bed and see things from their point of view. Maybe lay with them when the lights are outand see what they see as they are going to sleep.
Children who have had “real” nightmares and got a lot of attention from them might also use this as an opportunity to get attention from their parents. Keep this in mind if you sense that re-occurring incidents seem to lack the fear that accompanied the first dreams, and use your own wisdom about how to respond. It is wise to pay attention to them; after all, if your children are using things to get your attention,they very well may actually need your attention! If you do think that they are just pretending to have bad dreams, it might be good to talk with them about trust and how much you need to have them be honest with you about things in their lives.
As a young parent, bedtime can be pretty intense, sometimes taking more than anhour to get the kids to settle down and stay in bed. Establishing a routine is really important for children. If they didn’t get the drink, use the bathroom, kiss everyone goodnight, forget to tell you that they love you, forget to pray for grandma…well, you get the idea. When you set up the routine that allows your kids to cover all of the bases, this eliminates frustration that could lead to fretful sleep. If bedtime is like a miniature battleground, it opens the door to all kinds of fear, and that can lend itself to interrupted sleep.
Kids really need the assurance that their parents love them. If bedtime becomes the “I have had enough of these kids and can’t wait to put them to bed!”, you mightbe giving them messages that you don’t intend to give them. The greatest thing you can do to prepare your child for great sleep is to let them know how much you love them. If it has been a rough day, it is also a great time to make things right (…do notlet the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Eph 4:26-27)
I began the practice of reading to my children every night. My husband and I would alternate reading to them. This allowed us to spend time together. Your voice is soothing; you can sit close to them, and talk with them about the story. It is a goodway to wind them down and assure them that they are important. I would let them choose the book (usually a shorter story book) since I only had books for them that I liked. : )
So, when they have had their drinks, kisses, bathroom, story, love, and your time, you have set the stage for a soothing release into sleep.
It is also wise to keep your own television sound lower so that you keep the peaceful environment in your home. If there is an exciting car chase or tense program on, the child won’t always be able to distinguish what is going on and it could create an increase in their imagination. Sometimes something as simple as being aware of television volume will let your child have a great night’s sleep.
I also think that you should remember that there is a real enemy of your child,
who delights in torment and fear. If you also understand that these enemies arepowerless over any believer, you will not give strength to them by having a placein your home for them to function. It is good to pray over your house and listen tothe Holy Spirit if there are things or places in your home that need attention. This isby no means an article on spiritual warfare, but there is wisdom available for thosewho are paying attention. What you believe about your own power in Christ will bethe greatest influence in your home.
Deborah Reed is a former children’s leader who lead in the areas of Worship andthe prophetic for children. She also taught prophecy to adults for 9 years in a schoolof ministry, as well as led children’s prophetic teams. She is currently living inNorthern California.