How to Raise a Dreamer

Raising a child who is a dreamer can be difficult. Here's how to make living in a reality-based world easier for them.

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

I find in general there are two categories of people: the dreamers and the realists. You could make a sub-category for a-holes, but I think they tend to consider themselves realists. None of my realist friends are a-holes, though. To make it clear: realist does not equal a-hole, but a-hole equals realist.

I am a dreamer and from every indication I see, my oldest daughter will be following in my slippery footsteps. I worry about this sometimes and I cheer about it other times. Like with any trait, there are positives and negatives. I’ve thought a lot about how to nurture her dreaming and yet manage the heartbreak.

This is the advice I would give to the parents of a little me. My own dreamer daughter is 5 years old. I have yet to see the full outcome, but I know I’m on the right track with her.

1) Allow space for a child to decompress.

Dreamers can spend hours alone and in their heads. There is a whole canyon of stories enveloped in their brains that will never run out. Sometimes I would fantasize about being in a coma so I had enough time to run through the story in my head to see how it would end. Paying attention all day at school and then coming home to chat right away was hard for me and, truthfully, is still difficult for me coming home from work. I wanted to turn off communication with the outside world and regroup my thoughts. I think it is ok if my daughter doesn’t want to talk right away.

2) Don’t allow too much time for a child to decompress.

This one hurts to write because I know that my younger self would shout, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Just because the child is content with themselves and their own dreams doesn’t mean they shouldn’t receive a little push to get out there. Those dreams could some day change the landscape of the world, but if they haven’t made friends to encourage and walk with them through the journey to accomplish those dreams, I’m not sure they will get it done. I was lucky to have friends who yanked me from my rocking chair where I listened to the radio for hours and made me try football training and props person in a play. Experiences that I never dreamed (see what I did there) that I would be able to do, and yet I did. I would have no stories for my children if not for some pushes.

3) Don’t laugh at your child (in front of them.) Share silly things that run through your head to let them know that the Silly ChooChoo runs both ways.

If you have read any of my stories about my children, you might pause on this one and say, “But you laugh at your children all the time.” I try very hard to make sure that I am laughing with my children. If they are doing something that I find silly and they aren’t laughing at it, I will one up them in silliness to get a laugh from them. That is my way of making it even Steven and of making sure they know bringing laughter is a beautiful thing. I feel like when I write about them I put enough of my personal context in to make it obvious that it isn’t just the words they say; it’s the pictures that I dream up with the things that they say that make me giggle.

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4) Engage in 5 minute chats before bedtime about the best part of the day.

I’m not sure if it’s related to being a dreamer, but I find that I focus greatly on negatives in my life. Maybe because they don’t fit into my vision and I want to replay and replay until I can make it work. I have found that talking 5 minutes before bed with my dreamer not only becomes something she looks forward to, but it also ends the day on a positive note. This also says, “I care enough to drop everything to hear the important things you dreamed up today, so obviously these things matter.”

5) Be honest even when it hurts.

We recently dealt with the first death that my dreamer has been aware of. The death was especially troubling because it was a baby. This has weighed heavily on my daughter’s heart. There is a great deal of empathy I see in her sometimes that I relate to so much. She had many questions about death and going to heaven. She asked with tears in her eyes if I was going to die. All of my soul wanted to promise her that I wasn’t going to die ever, but that would have been wrong. She would remember that. I know she would, and if anything did happen, she would dream about what I said, and the pain of a lie would be combined with the pain of a loss.

My job as a parent is to teach my daughter how to combine her two worlds. I want her to believe the beauty in her dreams and to be able to handle a world that is sometimes very ugly.