Author Topic: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares  (Read 3445 times)

EricEng

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3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« on: December 16, 2020, 12:21:45 PM »
Curious if others have had this experience.  Our oldest little one just turned 3 year old and has been having consistent nightmares 2-3 times a night (usually at least hour apart) requiring our assistance for 4-5 months now.  Maybe 1-2 days a week we get no nightmares.  Wife is stay at home and very good with children, so child gets lots of attention and no exposure to other children at a daycare.  Child gets no videos, except a sesame street about every other day.  Child has never seen any scary movies or videos games, just saw first full length movie last week (Cars).  Prior to 4-5 months ago, child was a perfect sleeper from 6 months to 2.5 year old with only a wake up maybe twice a month.  Started shortly after new baby arrival, but older child gets along really well with baby.  Child devours books and has an immense imagination with elaborate creations which I suspect is working against us here.

Ideas?  Similar experiences?  Probably just a phase, but really messes up our sleep after months of this.  We expect it with new borns that need bottles multiple times a night, now our baby has been sleeping 10 hours during the night since 2 months (thank goodness).

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2020, 12:35:38 PM »
Sorry to hear this. Are these nightmares or night terrors? Our daughter had night terrors (distraught and appeared to be awake but wasnít awake) around age 2.5 now and then when she was overtired. They passed, but getting her to sleep on time or early helped a lot.

Sleep begets sleep at a young age. You might try moving bedtime forward (we were 7-7 then) and make your bedtime routine iron-clad with almost no stimulation for the last hour or so (bath and read books in bed with a dim light, etc) if youíre not already doing this. Also, we have a red light in the room (IKEA balloon lamp) that makes a nice gentle light that fills the room but is not disruptive to sleep.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2020, 01:06:30 PM »
Sorry to hear this. Are these nightmares or night terrors? Our daughter had night terrors (distraught and appeared to be awake but wasnít awake) around age 2.5 now and then when she was overtired. They passed, but getting her to sleep on time or early helped a lot.
Nightmares.  Child usually cries and screams standing in their doorway until we get there or comes running to our room if not too scared.  Always quite awake though.

We have a very good sleep schedule for all the kids and always get to bed on time (oldest is about 8:15pm).  Child always wakes like clock work by 7.  Child also takes a 2 hour nap still around 1 to 3, they usually sleep 1-1.5 hours of that.  We use an ok to wake light that lets child know when they can come out.  Child usually reads in the morning if they wake before clock goes off (typically about 30 mins early when we monitor), which is frequent.  Would love for them to sleep longer, but they just don't sleep more.  We have tried a brighter night light which has helped them at least stay in the room more after a nightmare, but not resolved the bad dreams.  The child can usually articulate the nightmares somewhat, usually something coming to get them in their room or "got them".
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 01:08:16 PM by EricEng »

BECABECA

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2020, 01:40:56 PM »
I had nightmares around this age that a wolf was coming to get me. They stopped when my parents explained that wolves couldnít open doors, so I was safe in the house. If you can nail down what is coming to get them, you may be able to use logic to stop them worrying about that scenario, which will in turn stop that particular nightmare.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2020, 02:44:10 PM »
I had nightmares around this age that a wolf was coming to get me. They stopped when my parents explained that wolves couldnít open doors, so I was safe in the house. If you can nail down what is coming to get them, you may be able to use logic to stop them worrying about that scenario, which will in turn stop that particular nightmare.
Have tried this approach without much success.  Tends to vary on the what is coming after them.  About half the time it is something specific and other half it is just a vague unknown or child can't articulate it.  Before bed the child usually asks "anything going to come get me?"  Used to always just say "nothing" but started trying to make it silly things like their stuffed animal or younger sibling or other silly things.

Malcat

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2020, 04:40:48 PM »
Any snoring?

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2020, 06:07:47 PM »
This might be a whole different can of worms, but both my sister and SIL both had nightmares as young kids.  As luck would have it, my parents and in-laws both got puppies that ended up sleeping with my sister/SIL and the nightmares stopped, almost immediately. My sister got a rat terrier and SIL got a shi-tzu.  I give my parents a bit of a (joking) hard time about it because the time spent coaxing my sister back to sleep after a nightmare was replaced with taking a dog out to pee at 4 am instead.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2020, 06:29:21 PM »
I had nightmares around this age that a wolf was coming to get me. They stopped when my parents explained that wolves couldnít open doors, so I was safe in the house. If you can nail down what is coming to get them, you may be able to use logic to stop them worrying about that scenario, which will in turn stop that particular nightmare.
Have tried this approach without much success.  Tends to vary on the what is coming after them.  About half the time it is something specific and other half it is just a vague unknown or child can't articulate it.  Before bed the child usually asks "anything going to come get me?"  Used to always just say "nothing" but started trying to make it silly things like their stuffed animal or younger sibling or other silly things.

Shoot, well that sure makes it harder. Iíd try to pin down why they think something is going to get them, but it sounds like this is less about something specific and more about general stress that is making your kiddo feel anxious and unsafe. Child nightmares are often stress related, and this pandemic is stressful, even for 3 year olds. And it looks like a lot of other children are having recurring nightmares lately.

Given that this has been ongoing for a while now, itís probably prudent to talk to their pediatrician about it if you havenít already.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2020, 10:31:37 PM »
Any snoring?
Nope.

Spouse is very allergic to pets so can't try that but child has several stuffed animals they love and sleep with.

Likely is stress related, but not sure of a specific condition that has persisted over all these months outside obviously covid.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2020, 02:59:11 AM »
One parent I know made a spray bottle of ďStay AwayĒ (or whatever you want to call it). It was just a spray bottle filled with water. They sprayed it in the kidís room saying that it was a repellent (like mosquito repellent) except that it kept all the bad things away.

Something that worked for another kid was to say that the stuffed animals had magic powers and could protect the kid while he was sleeping. Stuffed animals donít need to sleep because their eyes stay open all the time.

Laura33

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2020, 10:17:25 AM »
I'm sorry you're dealing with this; I know how frustrating and exhausting that can be.  And by all means, talk to your pediatrician. 

But most likely -- as in, 95%+ probability -- there's nothing wrong, it's nothing you did, nothing that happened, and nothing you can do.  Kids at that age go through such rapid developmental stages, and a big part of that is recognizing themselves as a separate being from mom and dad and asserting their independence.  This is all exciting, but it is also terrifying, and as we all know, fear can tend to manifest in dreams, or as a fear of the dark/monsters, or similar.  It's all the brain's effort to distill that sort of existential angst into something that it can put a name and a face to, so that it can process it and "defeat" it.  This can all be pushed along by the new baby, of course -- because the kid sees the new baby so attached to mom all the time, which brings home that the older kid is not so attached any more, which, again, part of the kid is happy with, and part of the kid is terrified by. 

Of course, that doesn't solve the problem!!  And I, alas, don't have any actual useful advice, because I was crap at managing this myself.  But perhaps knowing that it's normal will at least ease some of that stress of looking for a cause.  It's nothing you did, nothing that happened.  And it's also not the kid acting up or being bad to get attention.  It's just a child with limited verbal skills wanting more independence than child's brain is currently equipped to handle and needing to develop the self-confidence to know that child can handle it.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2020, 10:57:32 AM »
One parent I know made a spray bottle of ďStay AwayĒ (or whatever you want to call it). It was just a spray bottle filled with water. They sprayed it in the kidís room saying that it was a repellent (like mosquito repellent) except that it kept all the bad things away.

Something that worked for another kid was to say that the stuffed animals had magic powers and could protect the kid while he was sleeping. Stuffed animals donít need to sleep because their eyes stay open all the time.
Thanks, might try the "magical" stuffed animal part, although spouse doesn't like imaginary things like Santa and Tooth Fairy.  Although this is imaginary vs imaginary, so maybe?

Thanks Laura, was hoping you'd weigh in.  Yeah, we know it's fairly normal and probably not a failing on our part nor the child.  Guess I was mainly looking for creative suggestions and to share the feelings.  Hear from others so I know we aren't the only one dealing with this.  Little guilty to admit the first few times I enjoyed rushing to the rescue, now I just want to sleep.

yachi

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2020, 02:35:57 PM »
My 4 year old had been getting up thru the night.  I started trying to "seed" his dreams with prayers for dreams about playgrounds, and stuffed animals, and legos, and lots of fun things.  I don't know if it helped or if he just grew out of it, but I was trying to get his mind focused on the things I was talking about while he was falling asleep.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2020, 09:31:25 PM »
Sorry no advice, my 3 year old has only had 1-2 nightmares (but was a terrible sleeper until 2).

I vividly remember having nightmares about Sesame Street when I was very young. I was terrified of Oscar the Grouch for no reason. Even now watching it with my son brings back bad feels.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2020, 12:57:25 AM »
What worked for us was.

1. Recognise that nightmares suck. But donít press for details.
2. Walk them back to bed.
3. Encourage them to think of something they do like (get them to describe their happy place).
4. Leave the room.

Cassie

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2020, 04:44:14 PM »
My older sister had terrifying nightmares when little and when they occurred she got in bed with our parents. My brother didnít have them but I did and got in bed with my sister. My mom had them as a child and I wondered if itís anything you can inherit.  They can far exceed just a bad dream.

norajean

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2020, 07:04:54 PM »
Any COVID related stress or change of routine in the household? Kids can be quite sensitive.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2020, 11:51:55 AM »
Any COVID related stress or change of routine in the household? Kids can be quite sensitive.
Kids aren't old enough to be aware of Covid of course.  Spouse and I are obviously a bit more stressed from being cooped up so long without most of our normal kid activities that get them out.  Was obviously a lot of stress a few months back with new baby, but that has calmed down a lot since.

Still averaging 2 a night although we have now had a couple with 4-5 wake ups.
Quote
My mom had them as a child and I wondered if itís anything you can inherit.  They can far exceed just a bad dream.
Neither wife nor I have history of scary dreams for what that is worth.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2020, 04:28:50 PM »
Donít you think your 3 yr old is old enough to be aware that covid is something scary, and that it can get them? If I wasnít old enough to understand what covid was, but I understood it was scary and I was anxious about it getting me, Iíd imagine my nightmares might look a lot like your kidís.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2020, 05:29:18 PM »
Donít you think your 3 yr old is old enough to be aware that covid is something scary, and that it can get them? If I wasnít old enough to understand what covid was, but I understood it was scary and I was anxious about it getting me, Iíd imagine my nightmares might look a lot like your kidís.
My toddler doesnít know that Covid exists and has probably never heard the word. I donít know about the OP but unless theyíre having fear filled discussions about the pandemic over dinner, I would be surprised if the 3 year old had a clue. Especially if the kid is staying home and not seeing other kids who might be talking about it or seeing anything on TV.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2020, 11:56:36 PM »
Donít you think your 3 yr old is old enough to be aware that covid is something scary, and that it can get them? If I wasnít old enough to understand what covid was, but I understood it was scary and I was anxious about it getting me, Iíd imagine my nightmares might look a lot like your kidís.
My toddler doesnít know that Covid exists and has probably never heard the word. I donít know about the OP but unless theyíre having fear filled discussions about the pandemic over dinner, I would be surprised if the 3 year old had a clue. Especially if the kid is staying home and not seeing other kids who might be talking about it or seeing anything on TV.
My 3 year old (only a month into it) doesn't have a concept of colds, diseases, and death.  We have discussed it in front of him, but it isn't something he follows, picks up on, understands, or asks about as the vocabulary is mostly beyond him.  Now if we start talking toys, dump trucks, trains then he might jump in.  He has learned to wear a mask when going out, but he just sees it as wearing a hat or shoes.  We have him practice wearing it while watching videos at home (only time he gets to watch anything) to practice for flights down the road, so he his happy to wear it.  His masks also have construction vehicles on them, so he likes picking a mask to wear.

I'm not sure any child can understand covid before 5, or maybe mid 4?

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #21 on: December 23, 2020, 01:10:34 AM »
My daughter has had anxiety, trouble sleeping, and horrible nightmares.  It has gotten better and worse based on whatís going on in life - season changes, household stress, emergency/natural stuff (earthquakes, fires, Covid, storms).  I wish I had great ideas, but I only have great sympathy.  We still get woken up on the regular, but at least now she can articulate what her nightmares are about without full breakdowns. 

Iíll second the dog idea.  The puppy moved into her room at the beginning of the summer and weíve only had a few incidents when sheís woken me up.  Our biggest issue is that she just doesnít sleep in general, but the intense fear and frantic need to see us has decreased.  With the dog, she can wake up, calm herself and read or talk with the dog in the early morning hours.  But, she is 7 at this point.

My thoughts are with you!

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2020, 03:53:41 AM »
You could try having the child sleeping between you in the parental bed.  It could provide an additional feeling of security for the child, and at the least you wouldn't have to get up to deal with the nightmares.   You could either start the night in the parental bed or move the child in after the first nightmare.   Given that the child has already established being in a separate bed and bedroom it should be reasonably easy to transition them back to that once the nightmares have subsided.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2020, 08:37:32 AM »
Iíll second the dog idea.  The puppy moved into her room at the beginning of the summer and weíve only had a few incidents when sheís woken me up.  Our biggest issue is that she just doesnít sleep in general, but the intense fear and frantic need to see us has decreased.  With the dog, she can wake up, calm herself and read or talk with the dog in the early morning hours.  But, she is 7 at this point.
Thank you, but sadly spouse is highly allergic to furry pets and that includes the "hypoallergic" ones.
Quote
You could try having the child sleeping between you in the parental bed.  It could provide an additional feeling of security for the child, and at the least you wouldn't have to get up to deal with the nightmares.   You could either start the night in the parental bed or move the child in after the first nightmare.   Given that the child has already established being in a separate bed and bedroom it should be reasonably easy to transition them back to that once the nightmares have subsided.
My oldest is a noisy sleeper ever since birth.  Just like the parents, we all kick and toss a lot.  My spouse and child both talk in their sleep as well.  I don't think my child would ever manage to go to sleep if we were both there, would be super novel.

Allie

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2020, 11:20:19 AM »
Also, we tried melatonin for sleep initiation and oh my goodness, that was a scary trip.  Iím sure it can work great for some kids but it turns out it can trigger nightmares and sleep walking in some, like ours.  So, if you decide to try that, approach with caution or you may find her scared, crying, and in random places around the house.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #25 on: December 23, 2020, 11:53:15 AM »
Donít you think your 3 yr old is old enough to be aware that covid is something scary, and that it can get them? If I wasnít old enough to understand what covid was, but I understood it was scary and I was anxious about it getting me, Iíd imagine my nightmares might look a lot like your kidís.
My toddler doesnít know that Covid exists and has probably never heard the word. I donít know about the OP but unless theyíre having fear filled discussions about the pandemic over dinner, I would be surprised if the 3 year old had a clue. Especially if the kid is staying home and not seeing other kids who might be talking about it or seeing anything on TV.
My 3 year old (only a month into it) doesn't have a concept of colds, diseases, and death.  We have discussed it in front of him, but it isn't something he follows, picks up on, understands, or asks about as the vocabulary is mostly beyond him.  Now if we start talking toys, dump trucks, trains then he might jump in.  He has learned to wear a mask when going out, but he just sees it as wearing a hat or shoes.  We have him practice wearing it while watching videos at home (only time he gets to watch anything) to practice for flights down the road, so he his happy to wear it.  His masks also have construction vehicles on them, so he likes picking a mask to wear.

I'm not sure any child can understand covid before 5, or maybe mid 4?

As a point of reference, my 18 month old niece recognizes when we are talking about covid and itís one of many words she says. Granted, she had covid a couple months ago (the joys of having an essential worker parent). When she says covid, itís in the same tone and facial expression that she uses when she says hurt.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2020, 02:26:23 PM »
Even if young kids donít understand COVID, they can pick up on adult stress. They may not know why their parents are stressed, they just know there is something to be stressed about. When COVID first reared its ugly head in our city, we didnít talk about it, but DD recognized the change in our lifestyle patterns (staying inside, avoiding friends) and the general stress and she wet the bed for two weeks straight after being potty trained for over two years.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #27 on: December 23, 2020, 02:32:29 PM »
We noticed a correlation between nightmares and needing to use the bathroom at that age (and until age 5 or so). Though ours seemed closer to how people describe night terrors (appear awake, but not really).

Once we started insisting on using the bathroom before bed (even if they didn't need to), we noticed an improvement w/ fear and night waking.


EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #28 on: December 27, 2020, 12:47:52 AM »
We noticed a correlation between nightmares and needing to use the bathroom at that age (and until age 5 or so). Though ours seemed closer to how people describe night terrors (appear awake, but not really).

Once we started insisting on using the bathroom before bed (even if they didn't need to), we noticed an improvement w/ fear and night waking.
This very well could be related.  We have been doing potty training for last few weeks during the day, diaper at night.  It has caused some stress where the child is scared to go in the diaper at night, especially if they haven't fallen asleep already.  We always use it just before bed and try to reduce fluids for hour prior.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #29 on: December 27, 2020, 06:49:30 AM »
I think potty training can really have an effect on highly sensitive, highly imaginative children.   You are teaching them during the day to be attuned to the need to pee (something they never really had to think about as a younger child).  So then at night, if they are still urinating at night, they may start to wake up and notice they are about to pee.   The waking up isn't necessarily causing the nightmare.  But once they are awake, their active imaginations cause them to get scared.  So anything you can do to reduce the amount of nighttime peeing should help a bit (including waking them up at 11 PM for one last trip to the potty before you go to bed). 

But also, moving a parent into the child's bedroom (to sleep on the floor on a blow up mattress) should help as well.  That would give you a chance to see if the child is just waking up, then getting scared -- or if the child is waking up already scared.  As soon as they wake up, walk them down to the bathroom and have them use the potty, then back to bed.     Tell them "You woke up because you need to pee" so their mind doesn't invent a reason like "someone is coming to get me" due to the anxious feeling they have notice the sensation that they are about to pee.  It shouldn't take long, but I do think you probably need someone in the room with them.  If they have to come get your their mind has all sorts of time to get worked up over it.

EricEng

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #30 on: February 15, 2021, 11:58:34 AM »
So as a follow up the nightmares finally stopped in mid-late January after 5-6 months of it.  Quite a blessing to not get woken 3-4 times in a night by your oldest while the 0 and 1.5 year old are sleeping a solid straight 10-11 hours.

yachi

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #31 on: February 15, 2021, 02:22:41 PM »
So as a follow up the nightmares finally stopped in mid-late January after 5-6 months of it.  Quite a blessing to not get woken 3-4 times in a night by your oldest while the 0 and 1.5 year old are sleeping a solid straight 10-11 hours.

Excellent news!  Finally getting sleep through the night is one of the best things for young parents.

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Re: 3 year old and Multiple Nightly Nightmares
« Reply #32 on: March 12, 2021, 12:53:49 PM »
I'm glad OP's problem resolved itself, but I figured I drop a comment in case anyone looks for this subject in the future.

What helped both our kids with nightmares was 1) finding a "buddy" stuffed animal they could cuddle, but mostly 2) Grandma Blankets. Grandma Blankets were crocheted by my mother, and we told the kids that because they were made with love, they would keep them safe at night and prevent nightmares. I did tell the kids that nothing can totally stop nightmares, but that the blankets would help. And they did.

We never tried to convince the kids that Santa was real. We never made them believe in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. But we told them that Grandma Blankets would protect from nightmares. In a way, it was the truth because it was a self-fulfilling prophecy: when the kids felt safe at night, they had fewer nightmares.