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Mindfulness for fearful children

7th March 2017

A Mindful Nightmare

An example of how I use mindfulness to support my children.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m woken by the sobbing of my 8 year old as he climbs into my bed.  I put on the light and see his little face wet with tears and the utterly terrified look that goes hand in hand with nightmares.  “ The monster chopped off your head mummy” he cried.

Once I’d calmed him down and got him to tell me exactly what his nightmare was about I used the Byron Katie technique of Questioning Your Thoughts* to put his mind at rest.

First we went about unpicking it till the scary dream could be seen as just a collection of thoughts and nothing more.

“Wow,” I said “ So you say he chopped off my head?  Is that true? Did the monster really do it?” He looked at me closely whilst I moved my head from side to side, pulling funny faces to show it was definitely still firmly attached .

“No,he laughed, but I really thought he did.”

I asked him “so how did it make you feel when you believed that I’d had my head chopped of?”

“I was sad, it felt really bad and I was scared.”

“Yes, I bet you were. I’m not surprised you woke up crying.  Isn’t it amazing how powerful a little thought can be” I said.

“So how would you feel if you were not thinking the thought that I’ve had my head chopped off?”

He laughed again, “I would be happy and I would feel great.”

“So although the nightmare was very frightening, it was actually only what you were thinking, not what was actually real that was frightening you? Is that right?”

“Oh yes! I see” he said.

“Right, so you can learn to turn your thoughts around: You said “I was sad,” what is the opposite of “I was sad?”

“I was happy” he replied.

“That’s great” I said.  Can you give me 3 examples of when you felt happy?”

He didn’t have to think for very long before he was giving me lots of examples of happy dreams and times during the day that he was happy.

I reminded him that when he had bad thoughts they were just thoughts and probably not true but they could make him feel sad.  “Imagine how much time people can waste feeling sad and unhappy because they are spending precious time believing a thought that’s not even true”.

“Gosh” he mused, “that’s such a waste when we could be feeling happy instead”.

“So just remember you can always ask yourself the important question: Is that thought true? Because you know it probably isn’t.”

*Tiger-Tiger, Is it true? By Byron Katie teaches children four steps to help them question their thoughts.
By Maria Hands.

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