Discussion Post: What Is Your Nightmare System For Your Kids/When You Were a Kid?

This is universal, right? It wasn’t just me who woke up between 3 and 13 after a weird bad dream and then bugged my parents?

When my sister and I were tots, in the late 80s, there was a big thing about The Family Bed. Like, everyone had to have an opinion on it, good or bad. After doing all their research and reading every article like the good overthinking parents they were, my parents came up with an in between solution we called “rescue beds”.

So it’s 1am, I wake up from a nightmare, I toddle down the hall and stand in the doorway of my parents’ room waiting for my Dad to sense my presence and wake up (I always felt bad about bothering them so I didn’t make a big fuss). Mom would pull the covers more over her head and pretend to “sleep” (although as she points out, she always got up when we were sick, it was just nightmares she “slept” through). And then Dad would get up and get me a glass of water and put me on the bed while he got out the “rescue bed”. Which was Dad’s old boy scout sleeping bag put on the floor at the foot of their bed. And then I could get all cozy in there and listen to Mom and Dad sleep and feel safe. Very occasionally on super scary nights (like after they tried to make us watch ET, TOO SCARY FOR CHILDREN!!!!), we had the back-up rescue bed, and me and my sister would both be there on the floor and Mom and Dad would have to do an elaborate dance to avoid stepping on their children when getting out of bed.

Now how he practiced for this? Trying to avoid stepping on his boys after a hard night when they were all sleeping on the floor.

Anyway, that was our system. Combined with various other magical thinking tricks, like Mom giving us “bad thought shampoo” when we worried about stuff and couldn’t sleep, and peeing and then drinking a glass of water so all the bad goes out and is replaced by good, and the various nightlights/stuffed animals/bedtime rituals. Really, looking back on it now, it is amazing that any small child ever gets any sleep! Night time is a terrible and dangerous place.

Or maybe that was just our household. How about you? What was your nightmare system as a kid, and/or what do you do now for your own nightmare-ridden children?

Oh, and a bonus question for my sister, does her baby really have nightmares? When he wakes up suddenly screaming in the middle of the night, could that be what is happening? Did your babies have nightmares under age 2? His little brain is so underdeveloped it doesn’t seem possible, but sometimes there’s just no reason for it and it seems like he MUST have had a nightmare.

16 thoughts on “Discussion Post: What Is Your Nightmare System For Your Kids/When You Were a Kid?

  1. I believe you mean “his little brain is still growing” not “his little brain is underdeveloped”. But I’m on the fence about if he has nightmares, mainly because he cries loudly for less than a minute and then goes right back to sleep again. To me a nightmare takes longer to recover from. Maybe it’s the realization that he just wet his diaper?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We were super strict about my older kid not being allowed in bed with us. When they’re about one and a half though, they do go through a period of strong emotions and fears, and he absolutely would not stay in his bed. I am very stubborn and I fought this for like two weeks, but no one was getting any sleep, and eventually he ended up on a mat next to our bed, kind of like your rescue bed. He slept there every night for a year and a half, until I had to kick him out because a new baby was coming and we needed that slice of floor for the cradle. So we got him a big boy bed for his third birthday, which he fortunately loved. He’s barely been back since.

    The younger one is a whole different story. We were more tired already, and had another kid who needed to sleep, and knew that all the phases would pass. He was in our bed all the time until we kicked him out around age two and a half. He has a more vivid imagination, and many strong fears of the dark and being alone, and comes downstairs on a regular basis with nightmares. We try to talk him back to bed (he shares a room with his brother so he always has company) but if he says he’s afraid we give in and let him sleep with us. But he’s 7 now, we don’t all fit! After a night this week where I ended up sleeping on an 8 inch strip at the edge of the bed (and they all rolled over and one fell out…), I’m thinking we need to bring the mat back.


      • Kites is a weird bad movie! And also, Kangana (blech). It was supposed to be Hrithik’s crossover hit, his Dad produced it and Brett Ratner (I think) was involved, they did a shorter cut for the American market, and brought in Barbara Mori (a Mexican actress) as the heroine. It’s one of those runaway love stories that turns tragic things.

        On Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 12:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • My sister and I have about the same age gap as your boys, and also shared a room, but the problem was that when I hit that night time fears age instead of waking up Mom and Dad, I would wake up my sister, and suddenly there were two kids not getting any sleep. So I got a “big girl bed” at age 3 and my own room and everyone slept better. Which is kind of weird now that I think of it, would make more sense that we would have more fears when we were sleeping in our own rooms, not less.

      I’m thinking you need to bring the mat back too if the bed is running out of space! Also, the oldest has no opinion/feelings about getting a room to himself most nights? Is it scary for him, or nice?

      On Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 12:32 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. I don’t recall any of my 6 kids being particularly scared awake at night. I always “acknowledged” that monsters were scary, but that’s why I always closed the closet door, made sure they had their bappy/lovey, and checked under the bed if there were any weird noises coming from under there. Plus, the VeggieTales song God is Bigger than the Boogeyman seems to have made a positive impression! To this day, monsters are still a thing. I re-arranged furniture and stuff in my grandson’s room so I could close the closet door more easily. When my daughter noticed, I said, “Cause Monsters” and she just nodded and it’s stayed that way.
    As far as babies go, I think it actually, physically hurts to be a baby. So much growing happening, and it’s all so fast. I think leg cramps and bone aches and such make complete sense to me, and that will for sure wake you out of a dead sleep!


    • My sister was just saying she thinks her son had a growth spurt recently. Not because of night time awakeness, she didn’t notice that, but he seemed clumsy and tired as though his body had just been through something. So hard to be a baby.

      Did your kids share rooms? I can’t imagine not needing to go wake up Mom and Dad if I woke up from a nightmare all alone in the room.

      On Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 2:56 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • My kids shared beds/rooms in various configurations over the years. I had my own room as a kid, but sleeping with my parents wasn’t a thing. For starters, my dad snored REALLY LOUDLY, and second, well, let’s just say that Monsters were probably less scary in the long run!


  4. All my children dreamed before age two. Sometimes nightmares, sometimes giggles. Night terrors are the worst, we’ve only experienced it once, where the child is a massive screaming wailing thrashing fit that won’t calm down for what feels like hours. I’m glad we’ve only experienced it once.

    All my children still climb into bed with us, though we can and often do kick the 11 year old and 8 year old back into their own beds. As the parent sometimes it is claustrophobic. Sometimes I get up and move into the guest room. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep again, and sometimes I love having my children near me.


    • Do the climb into bed because of nightmares, or just because they can’t sleep or are lonely? Or all three?

      Also, did you upgrade to a Queen or King size bed? I was talking with my Mom and when we were little, they had a standard double bed, which caused all the difficulties.

      On Thu, Sep 24, 2020 at 12:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • We have a queen bed. And yes, they pretty much come into bed for any reason. Because I’m “experienced” people will sometimes ask me for sleeping advice… I tell them I failed and to ask someone else.


        • Bottom line, they are going to leave the house eventually, right? So somewhere between now and age 18, they will start sleeping in their own beds, it’s just a question of when (this is similar to the calming advice I give my sister about diapers).

          On Fri, Sep 25, 2020 at 1:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

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