A Guide to Bad Dreams About Our Children

August 4, 2013

Given that I can’t really keep up with the demand for dream interpretation that I have been receiving and that I don’t have time to organize the material into a proper guidebook to nightmares about our children I have elected to take an interim step:  to offer nine blog posts dealing with the most common categories of nightmare with some insights about overall themes and a quick guide to get a reader moving toward nightmares that might most closely resemble their own.

My hope is that if you find the best general category, and then go to that list of dreams which have been organized in terms of the age of the child in the dream, you may find some insights that you can then use to think about your own particular dream (and hopefully feel less afraid and more conscious about what is being stirred up for you and about how you personally discover is best to take care of your own self and your child).

Note that the threads are long and you must be patient in scrolling down through dreams until you find some that match the age or situation of your own dream.

While I realize it is still cumbersome to scroll down through multiple dreams until you reach one matching your child or your theme, my hope is that it will be somewhat easier than the random thread of comments at the original post.

So… If your dream involves water or drowning click here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/that-sinking-feeling%E2%80%94dreams-about-children-drowning/

If your nightmare involves falling or flying try here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-falling/

If the core dread is kids running away or being hurt from neglect click here:  http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-running-away-or-being-neglected-or-abandoned/

If kidnappers or scary animals, bad guys or monsters are the subject go here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-of-children-being-kidnapped-or-chased/

If the child actually does die in the dream click here:  http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-where-children-die/

If the dream involves overt abuse or graphic trauma read from here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-being-abused-or-traumatized/

If the dream involves poison try here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-about-children-poisoned/

If there is a family feud or families fighting see these: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-where-families-fight/

And finally, if the dream doesn’t quite fit any of the above categories but you suspect that it is teaching you something consider these dreams: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-as-teachers/

And… Sweet Dreams

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese August 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

What a gift this is, Bruce, and a generous one to those of us who drink up your wisdom like the nectar it is. I don’t know if I can say I look forward to exploring my own nightmares, but I know if will be time well spent.

With thanks and friendship,


Bruce August 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi Kristen, Thanks for your kind words—and the friendship :)


paige johnson January 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I have been trolling through your readings about nightmares and could not find much in regards to older children but found similar dreams I have had with my children when they were younger. I have two wonderful children that are now teens(14 yrs girl and 16 yrs boy). I have a college degree in psychology and do understand about the self and dreams. As of three months ago I’ve started to get day terrors of my 16 year of son being hurt and even at times killed by accidents of some kinds. This happens daily and nightly. I could be sitting in a room and get a instant thought him being killed by a car or even choking on food at school. Its never about my daughter I always vision her success and going to college and the normal parent wishes and dreams. something about my son I can’t see that no matter how hard i try to force myself to visualize his future. I’m believe it is a internal fear of him leaving the nest in a couple years but day terrors? plus nightmares? how do i make them stop? I have tried meditation and calming techniques they seem to help at home but its hard at work.

I hope you email me back with some form of answer

thank you


Bruce January 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Hi Paige,

What you are reporting sounds more like anxiety and dream interpretation per se. You also have insight into the underlying fear which is separation (which, if attachment is anxious for you, could mean separation anxiety):

for more on attachment see: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2010/12/15/attachment-in-the-lab-implications-on-the-couch-and-in-the-brain/

Beyond this you might want to get a little help (therapist, or start with reading) about anxiety (you could start with “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David Burns and go from there).

The key first point I would make, however, is that in trying to stop the “bad thoughts” you are inadvertently making them stronger. This sort of anxiety is better with cognitive behavioral insights than purely self and symbol sort of approaches.

The meditation is a good base for calming the mind, but in this particular sort of situation you must also have some support to confront the difficult thoughts and you will see them subside.

I’m wishing you well on this and sending empathy and hope you’ll seek some additional help as you obviously love your children and deserve not to suffer with these fears. Another resource I like is “Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders” by David Barlow.

Hope you feel better soon


lisa February 14, 2014 at 3:25 am

I have been up since 4 am i cannot fall back to sleep having the images of this dream in my head. In my dream i was playing around with two of my aunts running arond playing a bit harsh, when all of a sudden one of my younger cousins creams out “his arm his arm is broken and when i turn to run to him i see my son standing there not even able to cry of the pain he is in and i see his arm dangling and i could see where his bone has broken in his arm. So i grab him and carry him down the stairs telling him breath baby breath. And i could feel his body in my arms stiff from not being able to breath and i find all my family sitting around down stair and i scream at them take me to the hospital now his arm is broken so as i start to run to the front door i wake up in terror.


Bruce February 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Hi Lisa,

I’m sorry this dream upset you so terribly. It seems you were too upset to even read the post above, and so I will remind you that if you do read it, it will guide you to many dreams already submitted by others and many attempts to comment on those dreams.

A couple of ideas in the meantime. When we are terribly scared we can’t really think straight, and this is how we miss cues in the present that could help us heal, rather than re-living the past (especially if it has traumatized us).

Thus the first thing to do is realize that the dream was in fact, just a dream. Your child is not hurt and you are okay too (able to search this blog and leave a comment).

BUT… that was not how it felt, not in the dream or when you just woke up. We need compassion and understanding for that feeling.

So… perhaps the child in the dream symbolizes the child you once were. The broken arm might symbolize some sort of physical or emotional experience you had in the past—one that lead to speechless terror. This is natural when we are overwhelmed by pain or fear, and this is why I have been trying to help via this blog, but there have been so many dreams I can’t hardly keep up. I too have to learn that I cannot fix all the pain that is out there, this is why I’m asking that we work together, each doing what we can. Partly that means you at least reading some of what I’ve already written to see if it might not help.

Still, I never want to come across as rude or uncaring, and so I’m taking the time to spell this out.

In the dream you carry the child downstairs, and this could symbolize coming back into reality, “down to earth,” a return to the pain that caused you to leave your old self, or body, in the distant past, perhaps when you were the age your child is now.

You seem to confront a family that is not responding. Perhaps this is part of your pain and your anger—being hurt and then not recognized or helped when you needed holding and healing.

Perhaps the work of healing is to see that while your family may have hurt you, they might have been limited and unable to do better. Letting go of resentments can be a long process, but realizing that you may be justified in your hurt, anger and fear might be a step toward healing, toward forgiving, toward being able to give your child what you may not have gotten, and in the bargain raise them safe and secure while healing your own self of the pain of the past.

Certainly hoping my words help a little, and also wishing you well & sweet dreams ahead


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