Dreaming is a vital activity in the healthy growth and development of children. Up until three to four years old, children tend not to distinguish between dreaming and waking life. Between four and six years old, they begin to differentiate between dream episodes and reality, and beyond that they are able to realise that dreams are internal individual phenomena.
Children’s dreams are often filled with anxieties and fears, often in the form of predatory animals and scary monsters. Dreams in which animals play a big part express the child’s unconscious and intuitive side, and usually reflect the pressure to balance instinctive behaviour with social convention.
Dreams of being chased by monsters often mirror how the parents or authority figures are experienced by children. A smack on the wrist during the day with no warning or explanation is often experienced as being bitten on the hand by a monster in a subsequent dream. It is important that any analysis of a child’s dream should be participative, rather than evaluative, to ensure the most benefit and confidence and the least trauma and anxiety.