- In This Feature
- Guide to Nightmares
- Night Terrors
- Night Terrors: Causes
- Night Terrors: Treatment
- First Aid for Nightmares
- Nightmares: More Tips
- Nightmares: Causes
- Nightmare Emergency: Chase or Attack
- Nightmare Emergency: Falling
- Nightmare Emergency: Injury or Death
- Nightmare Emergency: Kidnapped
- Nightmare Emergency: Being Lost
- Nightmare Emergency: House on Fire
- Nightmare Emergency: Vehicle Out of Control
Nightmare Emergency: Being Lost
Description: Child reports that he or she was lost and felt desperate. Locale varies; may be outside in a forest, in city streets, in a maze, or inside a large building going down hallways or from room to room.
Frequency: Few children have this dream. Those that do may be plagued with it often. Dreams of being lost may be based on actual experience. If not, they are serious indicators of emotional turmoil.
Usual meanings: "I am confused"; "I feel helpless and alone"; "I am in despair"; "I feel deserted."
1. Describe the dream.
- Tell me about it.
- What happened?
- What happened next?
- What did you do?
- How did it end?
2. Reflect the child's feelings.
(If child has spontaneously mentioned his or her emotions while describing the dream, reflect them. If not, elicit them. Comment as appropriate.)
- How did you feel?
- What was the worse part?
- Did you feel differently when…(a change occurred in the dream)?
- You felt scared.
- You felt confused.
- You felt helpless.
- The worst part was…(feeling lost, being alone, no one would help).
3. Express reassurance.
- Sometimes people have dreams like that.
- It can be upsetting.
- I'm sure you're glad it didn't happen in waking life.
- You know, you don't have to stay lost in a dream.
- You can change the dream.
- (If child had an experience of being lost in waking life) Sometimes you feel afraid it will happen again. So do I. We can't change what happened then, but you can change a dream about being lost.
4. Align allies; take action.
- Suppose that actually happened to you while awake?
- What could you do?
- What else?
- Remember Hansel and Gretel? They tried to find their way back home with a trail of breadcrumbs. What would have been better? (In one version, Hansel and Gretel use stones to mark a trail)
- (If child was actually lost) You felt terrible when that happened. Sometimes you feel the same way again.
- What did you do when you were lost?
- What else could you have done?
- Who could help you?
- Who is strong?
- We have magical powers in dreams, and we can make things happen.
- Get help.
- It's your dream; you can have anything you want happen.
- What could you do?
- What could be fun?
- Try wandering to an interesting place; discover something; learn something and bring it back to the waking world.
- If you ever have that dream again, be sure to try some of these things.
A seven-year-old girl dreamed she was lost in the forest because she was angry. She might have reached in her pocket and found a map; she might have met a friendly rabbit that led her out; or she might have stopped, calmed herself and then retraced her route.
5. Make a drawing or some other creative product from the dream.
- Could you show me what that dream looked like in a drawing?
- Now show me how the dream would look with a better ending.
- Could you make up a story about this dream experience?
- (Be sure to give any dream "discoveries" waking form and display them in a prominent place.)
6. Seek a long term solution.
Children who often dream of being lost may need professional assistance. The dream may occur during an isolated period of confusion or may represent a permanent attitude.
Provide successful models
Read stories to the child in which the hero or heroine overcomes being lost or profits from the experience. As in the fairy tale of "Hansel and Gretel," being lost is another classic myth and folktale theme. Symbolically, it represents confusion prior to enlightenment.
A child's version of the myth of Ariadne and Theseus is useful when a person dreams of being lost. Ariadne, remember, provided the thread that enabled Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth that housed the minotaur—a monstrous half bull-half man who attacked anyone in his space.
Other tales involve people finding their way by marking trees, and so forth.
Teach survival skills
Child should know his or her last name, address, telephone number, and so forth. Investigate methods boy scouts and girl scouts use to find their way in the wilderness; convey these to a child who has dreamed about being lost. You might want to supply the child with an inexpensive compass and teach them how to follow directions.