Five Reasons to Listen to Your Children's Dreams

Why listening to your children's dreams can bring you closer

Posted Jul 17, 2011

Children often tell researchers that no one listens to them when they want to talk about their dreams. Unfortunately, pressured schedules and a cultural disinterest in dreams mean that many parents take little notice of their own dream life, never mind their children's. Here are five reasons why parents might want to find a few moments to listen carefully to their children's nightly expeditions.

1. Dreaming is part of human experience. Scientists have shown that all mammals dream, and that as children we spend more time dreaming than we do as adults. In fact neuroscientist J. Allan Hobson calculated that by the age of 70, most adults will have spent six years of their lives dreaming. That is a significant part of our lifespan to ignore!

2. Dreams can be fun. Children regularly dream of things they love, such as friends, family, pets, favorite celebrities and cartoon characters and like to talk about  their dream adventures.

3. Some children may have spiritual dreams. As psychoanalyst Carl Jung noted many 'big' or spiritually significant dreams occur in childhood. Recent research with children shows that many experience at least one dream which is highly meaningful and can shape their thoughts and actions.

4. Nightmares are frightening. Yet nightmares are a normal part of childhood sleep. Children will need to try to make sense of them and will need your help. Whilst it is tempting to reassure them that the monster in the nightmare isn't real, it will certainly feel real to them and can make them fearful of going to sleep in case it returns. Try asking them to draw the images and then draw a different version with a happier ending.

5. Children just want to share with you. Just as children are eager to tell you their thoughts, feelings and what they have been doing whilst awake, they are often keen to tell you what they have been doing in their sleep. Listening will mean a lot to them and can help to bring you closer.

Of course, it is important not to pressure children into sharing dreams which they may not want to, or may not recall easily. Undue pressure will only lead to them making up something they think you want to hear. In this busy world, it is easy to miss a child's attempts to draw attention to their dreams. Likewise it is common to unintentionally dismiss a child's dream as 'just imagination'. But by taking some time to explore their dreams with them, you will be privileged to enter an important and often unseen part of their life.