For the majority of my life—first as a child, then as a teacher and a mother, going back to school demarcated the end of summer. For children and adults, it’s a bittersweet time. Ready or not, parents and their school-aged children must relinquish the unscheduled sweet summer days and step into the excitement of autumn’s brisker pace.
I’ve included two articles and a visualization (dream starter) to help parents and their children to get the school year off to a good start. In the first article, What Dreams Reveal, I urge you to take a few quiet minutes at the beginning of each day to listen to your child’s dreams and to share your own.
As we get busier, a few shared moments of intimacy can keep us close and make the entire day run smoother. Secondly, I’ve included tips to help reset your children’s internal clock so that they will be well-rested and ready to start the school year. Being well rested can help children make the back to school transition and cut down on some of their stress as they adapt to new experiences, people, and classes. Adequate sleep helps children to be resilient and ready to face the challenges of a new school year.
What Dreams Reveal
"Sleep with the angels."
For many years, my daughter’s last words to me before going to sleep have been, “Good-night Mom; sleep with the angels.” Whether or not you share our belief that angels and guides visit us in our dreams, it’s indisputable that dreams frequently reveal wisdom and understanding.
Throughout history, dreams have fascinated mankind and their magic and mystery hold a special allure for children. Dreams can be wacky and wonderful, or they can be foreboding and frightening. More than just fanciful imaginary happenings; they are projections of our inner state and can reveal fears, feelings and fantasies.
Encourage your children to try to remember their dreams and share them with you. This will give you a greater understanding of your child while giving your child a greater understanding of himself. It will also help children learn to pay attention to subtle messages and to develop their intuition.
Exploring the Dream World:
Have your child keep a journal or a drawing pad next to the bed. Encourage children to draw a picture or write about their dreams when they first wake up in the morning. (You may even decide to delve into your own world of dreams by keeping your own sleep journal by your bedside.) In the morning, get in the habit of taking a few minutes to share your dreams with each other. Dreams are delightful puzzles filled with clues that take the form of symbols. In time, children can learn to thoughtfully interpret their dreams in order to solve their everyday problems. But don’t try too hard to analyze your child’s dreams. Just enjoy a delightful time of sharing and laughter; it may set the mood for the entire day.
Don’t worry if your child is telling you about a dream and it turns into storytelling. Young children have a hard time understanding exactly where the dream memories end and the imagination frequently takes over.
When your children are dealing with a dilemma or a difficult decision, suggest that they pay close attention to their dreams. Depending on your belief system, you may wish to advise them to pray or ask their inner knowing, guardian angel, guide, spirit, or God to give them a message in their dreams.
If your child has frequent nightmares, try to cue good dreams through positive thoughts and visualization. Encourage your children to think of something wonderful just before they go to sleep. If your child asks you what to think about, feel free to make a suggestion to jump-start his or her imagination. Tell your child to be the director and star of his own movie—choosing things just the way he wants them to be. When a child’s mind is filled with positive thoughts and images just before falling asleep, they can often enter the subconscious and be carried over into dreams.
Did you know?
Sleep is categorized into two basic types: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Our bodies need both types of sleep to be fully rested. REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep, is so named because the eyeballs make fast lateral movements under the lids. In REM sleep, the slow brain wave patterns of non-REM sleep are replaced by fast, low-amplitude waves. Because the brain waves are similar to those when we’re awake, REM sleep is also called paradoxical sleep.
Although children can also dream during other stages of sleep, the most vivid dreaming, including nightmares, takes place during REM sleep.
Children spend more time in REM sleep than adults, and it’s the stage of sleep when the information encountered during the day is processed.
When children wake up or are aroused during this phase of their sleep cycle, they are usually coherent and can talk about their interrupted dream.
When children are deprived of REM sleep, their bodies will try to make up for it by spending more time in REM sleep on subsequent nights.
Because REM sleep is so important, losing even an hour of sleep can
have a profound effect. Studies show that the more REM sleep we get,
the more likely we are to wake up in a positive and upbeat mood. When
children are deprived of REM sleep, their memory and mood is adversely
affected and they are likely to become irritable, moody, and fatigued.
Reset Children's Internal Clock for School Success
During the long summer break many children have gotten used to staying up late and sleeping in simply "because it's vacation." If this problem isn't corrected before school starts, children are likely to struggle as they adjust to an earlier schedule. Insufficient sleep affects a child's mood, immunity and ability to learn. Parents can help to reset their children's internal clock before school begins-so they can get off to a good start.
Before school starts:
During the school year:
Back to School Night in Dreamland
Dream Starters are visualizations which promote relaxation, imagination and well-being as they guide children into the world of dreams.
To prepare for these dream starters, (or visualizations), create a quiet comfortable atmosphere in which your child can relax.
Step One ~ Progressive Relaxation (Tensing & Relaxing Muscle Groups)
Have your child lie down in his bed. Have him lift each arm and leg individually, holding each limb tightly before loosely flopping it down on his bed. Then have him wrinkle his face and hold his eyes tightly closed, before relaxing his face. (Tense each muscle group for at least 5 seconds.)
Step Two ~ Focus on the breath
Have your child get very quiet and watch his own breath.
Step Three ~ Creative Visualization
Now that your child is relaxed, read (or tell) the following visualization. Of course, feel free to modify it according to your child’s age and interests.
Ready for School
From far away, you hear the humming of the beautiful crystals in Dream Land. This means that the Dream Academy is in session. Feel your breath go in and out (pause), in and out, (pause), in and out (pause). Ride your breath into Dream Land.
In Dream Land, the magical dream dust fills the air. The tiny, glittery, flecks of light dart every which way. Groups of dreaming children, dressed in their pajamas, are waiting for their dream class to begin. The Dream Maker is standing in the open doorway of the crystal dome Dream Academy. The dream dust on her cape and hair makes it look as though she is covered with shimmering snowflakes. She reminds you and the other dreamers to leave any worries or troubles you might have with Willow before entering the classroom. If you have any troubles or worries, go hang them on the strong tree. He will work on them so that you’re free to happily dream.
“Welcome to back to school night,” the Dream Maker says. Follow her through the Dream Academy doorway and into the large classroom. As usual, clouds are hovering just above the floor. Find your own special cloud and lie down. It feels as if your cloud is hugging you as you sink down into its softness. (pause) Since there is no ceiling in the classroom you are free to look up at the shimmering stars. A shooting star darts across the dark sky and your classroom is filled with its shimmering, light, dream dust. Make a wish. (pause) It will surely come true.
The Dream Maker begins her lesson. “Soon, you will be heading back to school. It’s more important than ever for you to sleep well and enjoy your dreams so that you’ll wake up each day well-rested and ready to have a good day at school.”
Close your eyes. See a large movie screen. Your own special movie is ready to begin. See yourself on the movie screen with a big smile on your face. You’re happy and ready to start a new school year. Know that you will do well. On the movie screen, you’ll see your school. See yourself walking into your new classroom and sitting at your desk. You’re ready to learn. This year, you will be learning many new and interesting things. Now the movie screen shows you out on the playground. You’re having fun playing and laughing with your friends. (pause)
Take three deep breaths and find yourself back on your soft, fluffy
cloud—or in your cozy bed, if you’d rather. (pause) And
now, don’t try to do anything at all. Just let go. Breathing in,
I let my thoughts go. Breathing out, I let my thoughts go. Letting go,
letting go. Letting go, letting go.