One of my earliest memories is waking up to find the creepy Howdy-Doody puppet dancing on the rail of my little sister's crib! I was so freaked out! That one dream kept me from sleeping soundly for ages. It still gives me the shivers.
Being little and afraid at night, alone in the dark when all the monsters come out, is an experience that most of us can remember. As parents, when our kids are going through a period of troubled sleep, too often we don't know what to do and in our desparation to get a good night's sleep ourselves, we only make it worse. We yell, plead and finally crawl into bed with our child. They may go to sleep, but we are miserable and our child has learned nothing about self-confidence.
That's why I love the new children's picture book The Scariest Dream Ever. A little boy tells the story of how he couldn't get to sleep because there is a witch in the basement! He runs to his mother expecting her to make the witch go away. Instead, she encourages him to tell the witch to do the laundry that has piled up by the washer conveniently located right there in the basement! Empowered by his mother's suggestion the boy declares, "So I did!"
The mom helps her son go from feeling helpless to becoming empowered. Several terrifying monsters are redirected to complete mundane household chores and the boy gains increasing confidence. Finally, in the security that he can deal effectively with whatever nasty thing should threaten him, the boy falls into a sweet, monster supported sleep.
The story uses cognitive behavioral therapy to great advantage. The mother does not try to comfort the boy's fears (like so many of us, she's just too tired to deal with it). She ignores all that and instead addresses his core belief, "I am helpless." By telling the boy to give the monster a job, (I love that the jobs she suggests are everyday chores no one is crazy about: laundry, picking up the bedroom, cleaning the kitchen… another way of taking the teeth out of the scariness) Mom flips the victim position the boy automatically took and turns it on its head. She gives him something he can do. He becomes the do-er, instead of the done-upon. As I've said to many patients with anxiety, "The antidote to anxiety is action!"
The illustrations by Alixandra Martin are rich, colorful, detailed interiors filled with surprises that will entertain through multiple readings. The story, by Maria T. DiVencenzo is simple enough for a beginning reader, while being thoughtful and entertaining for the adult reader, too.
Teachers, counselors, schools and children's organizations are taking notice that The Scariest Dream Ever could be a helpful tool in teaching children the important skill of emotional regulation and self-relience. That doesn't surprise me at all. If your kid is having trouble sleeping you might like it, too, and I wanted to tell you about it.
So I did!
The Scariest Dream Ever is published by Winterlake Press. To learn more click here.