We all know how important sleep is for our children's health but have you ever thought that getting them to share their dreams will give you an insight into their hopes and fears and the person they are becoming?
These days I don't always remember my dreams but I can still remember the scary dreams I had as a child about monsters under the bed and goblins in the wardrobe!
Adjustamatic, who make adjustable beds have teamed up with sleep expert Ian Wallace to explain how understanding our children's dreams gives us an amazing opportunity to get to know our little people better in the rather touching video below.
Apparently, it is quite normal to dream about goblins, elves and fairies around the ages 5-7 because it is at that age that we begin to understand power hierarchies and to learn about rules. Not surprising when you think that this is the age when kids move towards a more formal education - a little less play and a lot more expectations from them.
It is also in our dreams as well that we process those things that are upsetting and that are big concepts for us to understand, such as death. The 'bad' things that happen to your child may well make an appearance in bad dreams.
Both Caitlin and Ieuan have had periods of bad dreams where they have shouted in the night and needed comfort and when asked in the morning, it is always pretty obvious to us what the cause of the bad dream has been.
Ian Wallace describes dreams as the 'ultimate selfie' because we are able to explore different aspects of our personality, try on new characters and be honest with ourselves about how we really feel. And it's the same for our children.
So how can we encourage our children to talk about their dreams in a positive way? And, if they are having difficulty sleeping, how can we help them?
Here are some useful tips.
*Make sure that their bedrooms are conducive to good sleep. Some children hate a room that is too dark and appreciate a nightlight or a torch by their bedside. Consider blackout blinds or curtain linings if too much light is keeping them awake - for example from an outside light, or early morning sunlight.
*Is their mattress comfortable? As a child grows and gets heavier, they will need a mattress with additional support. All mattresses should be replaced once they are around 8 years old.
*Do they have a good bedtime routine? Children around 7 still need 9-11 hours so a wake-up time of 7 am for school means a bedtime of around 7:30 - 8 pm.
*Do they have sufficient 'wind-down' time? The advice is to switch off iPads and tablets at least an hour before going to bed. Reading a bedtime story is a much better substitute for extra game time as it is calming and bonding for both of you - and a great opportunity for your child to talk about anything that is bothering them before they drop off to sleep.
*Make time to talk about your child's dreams with them. You could share something you dreamed about and encourage them to return the favour. You could get them to draw some of the creatures that have appeared in their dream.
*If they have woken in the night with a nightmare, gently ask them what it was about (be aware that they often don't remember) and see if they can tell you what they think caused it. You may have your own ideas of course but children often see things very differently than we do.
*Some children need a comforter, special teddy or blanket for security and it is normal to need these for longer than you might think. We bought Caitlin and Ieuan dream-catchers which hang on their windows.
*It may also help if you share some of your bad dreams (in a light-hearted way, so as not to distress your child further) and to explain that some dreams are universal - for example falling or losing your teeth!
The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud recognised the importance of studying our dreams to understand our subconscious mind and wrote a classic book on the subject: "The Interpretation of Dreams" - and many of his theories are still accepted today.
It is through our, and our children's dreams that we get the chance to acknowledge what is happening in our lives and to truly acknowledge how we feel about it.
Why not ask your kids to share their dreams with you - you might be surprised and enlightened at what you learn.
And with this knowledge, you'll have an extra string to your parenting bow when it comes to building a strong, supportive relationship with your children on their road to adulthood.