Written by podcast guest: Tammy Hawkins
“If you have trouble getting your children to fall asleep, I can relate.
As a mom of two kids who struggled often with night terrors, anxiety, and typical bedtime fears, I know exactly how tired and frustrated you may be. And your kids! They are looking to you for help.
If you’re an exhausted parent, desperate for a more peaceful bedtime routine, this book will help you and your child release fear and negative thoughts together.
It’s my passionate goal that this method be the creative catalyst for many peaceful nights of sleep in your home, and the beginning of a better relationship with that child who is trusting you to help make them feel safe and calm as they drift off to sleep.
Turn bedtime, or anytime, into dream time with the Dream Rock method.”
The transcript and resources for this episode can be found below.
Cassandra: [00:00:00] Hey friend, it’s Cassandra, and this is needed and known the podcast where we discover how to transform average moments into a great life by learning, growing, and becoming better humans together. I interview amazing people. Who’ve improved their communication relationships and perspectives in unique way.
This episode is for anyone who ever needs help falling asleep or knows parents of children who need help falling asleep. Timmy is a mom of two kids who struggled often with night terrors, anxiety, and typical bedtime fears. She developed a peaceful routine that helped her children to feel needed and known.
And today she’s sharing it with us. Hint, it works for grownups too.
Hey, Tammy. Thanks for joining us today.
Tammy: [00:00:46] Thank you, Cassandra. Thanks so much for having me.
Cassandra: [00:00:48] So tell us a little bit about you and your kids.
Tammy: [00:00:52] I am the mom of two kids. I had my first kid when I was 25 and then two years later I had my daughter.
So I’ve got a boy and a girl. And we’ve got your pretty typical suburban family and we live in San Diego.
Cassandra: [00:01:07] You also used to have a lot of. Bedtime frustration as many of
Tammy: [00:01:12] us do. If you could, you can give me a room with any parent who doesn’t. I would be really surprised. So, but yes, we had some, I thought they were special struggles, but the more I’m learning is they’re pretty common, but yes, we had a lot of bedtime issues from a pretty young ages with my kids.
As far as falling asleep, settling down. So I was tired for a lot, a lot, a lot of. And have come up with some things to help them fall asleep. And now we’re all happier, healthier, and, and it’s a work in progress. Of course, you know, nothing stays the same when you have a family, but we have come a long way, so that’s been good.
Cassandra: [00:01:53] What are some, so I know those situations with like in my house, what do they look like for you? What kinds of things would your kids do when they were not going to sleep?
Tammy: [00:02:02] That’s a good question. Cause it looks, it honestly does look different in every household. So our particular family situation, we have a lot of sensory issues and it’s genetic and generational.
So I have other family members with similar sensory processing. I’ll call it sensory processing. Yeah. Where I’m easily overwhelmed, stimulated by lights and sounds, and just having a really hard time calming down our bodies. You know a lot of people are familiar with, they say, they’ve got just kind of lightening going through their bodies or some little kids might say it’s, it feels like, you know, bees are buzzing in my arms and my chest and, and that’s kind of it can be a symptom of anxiety and also just overactive sensory.
Transmission. So for younger kids, some of them have a really hard time. Learning and getting their bodies to quiet that down. So that was our particular struggle was overcoming those kinds of body inputs. Now for my daughter, it was a different case. She had more of your typical bedtime fears, worried about being alone, not so much scared of the dark, but just kind of some of the things that come with bedtime fears.
So I kind of had both angles and had to do my best to find things that would work in several different situations.
Cassandra: [00:03:20] So, what was it like for you to fall asleep as a kid? Did you have these problems too? Or were you just kind of like, oh, I’ll just go to sleep.
Tammy: [00:03:26] I definitely have some friends who they’re like, I go to bed and I conk out, you know, what is what’s different, but no, that was not my experience as a kid.
So I think that’s one of the reasons why I have a particular interest in this is because I, as a kid also had trouble falling asleep and for again, a different angle. So maybe kind of a third. Direction of, of experience with this is when I was young, I lost my mother to cancer at a young age. And I don’t remember much of the time before that, but I have very vivid memories being in bed as a child and being scared, worried, and sad.
And. That was very overwhelming and that I didn’t know exactly how to comfort those things. So that was something I had to work on with my parents. I’m very lucky that my dad remarried and I have a great step-mom who raised me you know within a couple of years of that experience, but I still have just these vivid memories laying in bed.
And I don’t know if that’s something that everybody has those vivid memories. Do you remember being a kid and being in bed and being afraid?
Cassandra: [00:04:30] I can, you know what I can remember. I can remember being, and I’m sure I did this before then, but I remember I must’ve gotten in big trouble. You know, there’s an emotional association.
I was probably eight or nine. I would get up just like my kids did. I would get up and then I would get in trouble. I was going to sleep. Oh. But I need to go to the bathroom, so I’d go to the bathroom and then I come back to it. Oh. But now I I’d get some water. Okay. And then I go back to bed. Oh. I forgot to put my doll on the chair that it belongs on.
Okay. I’m gonna move the up. And then I get in trouble for being up all the time, which is funny because as an adult, I still, I will say to my head. I think I left the fridge door open. Like I’m confident it’s closed. I’m sure I left. I’m sure. Cause you know, sometimes you have to push it all the way I’m competence closed, but here I go, because otherwise I know I’m just, I’m going to lay in bed thinking about whether or not the refrigerator doors open.
And all I have to do is walk there and. And then of course, every time, so far it’s been closed. So yes, I not only had, but I have those issues
Tammy: [00:05:26] And that’s the funny thing. And that’s kind of one of the reasons why I really am passionate about addressing this now is because the more people I’ve talked to about this, I’ve kind of grown in interest over the last few years, even though we’re resolving most of our issues with my kids and in our home, the more people that I’ve talked to.
A, their kids also share these issues, but B the adults do as well. They either still do or did. And it’s just such a foundational building block to have a good night’s sleep that I’m like. Let’s look at this from a more holistic point of view. So many people are reactive. To their sleep as an they’re not being proactive and trying to solve and figure out why.
I mean, some people do don’t get me wrong. People spend lots of time trying to figure it out, but there’s a lot of just like, I can’t sleep. I don’t know why I wake up every day at 3:00 AM or I have a hard time falling asleep and I can’t put my place. Thinking of it more proactively is really interesting.
So more people I talked to the parents and the kids also have this in common. So really what I’m trying to learn about and, and work toward is for the whole family, not just the kids, but also for the parents and a little bias, you know, moms and some lots of tire dads out there and, and nobody’s happy and healthy.
Or at their best, at least if they’re not sleeping well. So just looking at it from the big picture, but definitely it comes and it stays with you. So I I’m like let’s look at this for everybody and figure out how we can work towards some solutions and not just deal with bad sleep, being a consistent, being consistent throughout our lives.
Cassandra: [00:07:03] Exactly. I love this. So Tammy spill the tea. What changed?
Tammy: [00:07:09] Desperation can be an amazing catalyst. I’ll tell you that. Right? Every parent has had that point where they’re like, I am just so desperate. I will try anything. So I tried a lot of things. I read a lot of parenting books. I read a lot of online forums and chatted with people, talk with professionals, doctors.
And one thing that can stick consistently stuck out to me was. The power of positive thinking as cliche as it sounds, but how do you explain that to a three-year-old who just can’t calm their body? It’s pretty difficult. So one night I was just so desperate and I had actually just gotten a gift that was But instead of opening the book, it was like this little inset with pretty rocks inside.
It was this like little Buddhist crystal set where each rock had a different meaning and meaning. And I thought it was just really cute and pretty, and. I was, so my kids were not going to bed. I had to figure something. I went and grabbed one of the rocks and I was like, we’re going to play a game. We’re going to talk about things that make us happy.
We’re going to come up with these fun ideas. And it kind of evolved. I don’t remember exactly that first night, but I do specifically remember running into the other room, grabbing a rock off my desk. And it’s just a rock. It’s not magic, but grabbing a rock on my desk, coming in and saying like, okay, let’s hold this rock in our hands.
Let’s be calm. And let’s just talk about like, what are some things you love? Let’s talk about things that you love and they don’t know what to do. So I went first.
Cassandra: [00:08:46] I love how your voice changed. They’re like your mom voice came on so strong and now I’m like, okay, what’s happening now? What do I need to do?
Okay. So we’re, so we’ve got the rock and we’re calming down.
Tammy: [00:08:58] So we’ve got the rock and. We have turned off. Most of the lights that’s one of my other things is if you have all the lights on people, say my kid’s not coming down. Turn off almost all the lights except for one lamp. And that reduces that sensory input in your body as well.
But next we were holding the rock and I said, okay, let’s talk about some things we love, but. Sometimes when you present a question or a theoretical thing like that, they get kind of deer in the headlights. Like what do I do? So I would go first and I would say, I love our cats. I love our house. I love our neighbors and our friends.
I love spaghetti and funny jokes and, you know, silly movie or something, you know, just name things that are both comforting, calm, and happy and silly and just kind of go. And then I say, okay, now it’s your turn. And I’d hand them the rock. And they would then come up and start coming up with some things and you know, what something really special happens.
I wish I was a medical doctor to explain what this is exactly. When you think positive things or use positive words, and you’re saying things out loud, your brain gets a little dose of dopamine. It’s a hormone release. When you say positive things and say things you love, then your body goes, Ooh, that feels nice to think about.
And that is just a really comforting feeling. So that was how it started. We. Wanted to make it a little bit more involved because that was good, but you’re still not quite like in the zone yet. So then I would take the ride and say, okay, now we’re going to come up with some things I want to dream about and come up with things that are really realistic.
And also that are just pure fantasy. So a really fun combo of like let’s dream about, you know, I want to take a family vacation and go to the beach in Hawaii or go to this museum in Italy and have ice cream together. Or I want to take a rocket to the moon that’s made of cotton candy and play with the bugs that live there.
You know, like I don’t know something silly and that just gets them out of that fear, body response, that anxiety response, and flips it to being positive. Kids also kind of believe that they’re going to dream those things. Right. They get excited. And they’re like, oh, that sounds really fun. Okay. And they snuggle in and go to bed.
So it’s not a cure all for everybody, but it’s such a fun thing. And it really does physically change your hormone levels and change the biology and the thought paths that are going through from the negative worry. What I, the other thing I was going to say, when you mentioned, you know, worrying about the refrigerator, Those two words for that there’s rumination when you’re consistently thinking about the same thing over and over again, and it can be either something that’s happening right now, like the refrigerator door, or it can be an argument with a friend I had two weeks ago and I just can’t stop thinking about it.
Those are the consistent things that come up at bedtime. Right. And then another one, another word for that is an intrusive thought. So you have these intrusive thoughts that are not totally based in reality. But once it pops up, you just can’t get rid of it and it’s destroyed. It’s disturbing and disruptive.
And so sometimes so it’s important thing to be aware of, to know if your brain has the same. And most people do a lot of people deal with that. So that’s not unusual. Every
Cassandra: [00:12:18] Wait– now I’m. Some people don’t deal with that. That’s amazing.
Tammy: [00:12:25] Most people we’ll deal with that, so it’s not unusual.
So I actually talked with a professional psychologist about this. I have a family member, who’s a child psychologist. And I said, I came up with this thing. Is this like weird? Does this work? Is this a bad idea? You know, what is it. Doing and why is it kind of working for us? And he said, you know, that’s a type of cognitive behavioral technique when you’re changing your negative thoughts to positive thoughts in a moment when you need a shift.
So he said, now it’s not a true replacement for therapy or for, you know, some other interventions. If someone really has a true clinical issue that they really need support with. But in the moment sometimes. At bedtime, when you just need to go to bed, you just need to switch that thinking, you know, that can be something to work on at another time of day, that’s more appropriate to really get into delving those fears.
And sometimes it’s not even realistic at bedtime. If you talk about trying to solve those fears at bedtime, you can’t work past it. You’ve got you just stuck in the scary. So switching it to the positive is really, really helpful. And it sounds. Woo-hoo it sounds like it’s like, okay, you just say things you’re happy about and you hold this rock.
Like, what is, but I just, I encourage people to try it and you know what? I even do it myself. It works. I don’t do it all the time. I don’t do it often, but sometimes if I’m having trouble fall asleep, I’ll be like, oh, let me get a dreamer rock. I’ll do that. Or I’ll do it without a rock. And just start thinking of the things that I love.
It’s very similar to people who have like a gratitude journaling practice at the end of the day. Same habit, different method, different words. But when you write down things that you’re thankful for, how does it make you feel, right? Is that something that you’ve done or do you do things like that?
Cassandra: [00:14:11] I do. Yeah, I have a gratitude journal. I actually usually do it in the morning so that I can have a good rest of the day, because at this point in my life, aside from the refrigerator I’ve got my own things that I do to go to sleep. And my husband calls me a light switch, so he can be mid thought talking to me in bed and I am out.
So I have to tell him I’m going to fall asleep now, which he knows now means I’m going to fall. Now
Tammy: [00:14:40] that’s impressive that, you know right. Exactly. When it’s going to be like,
Cassandra: [00:14:43] when you’re watching a movie and you know, I’m going to fall asleep
Tammy: [00:14:46] that’s another similar technique. I mean, a similar response of having someone you love and you, you know, cares for you, and this is a safe person and a safe voice talking to you as you fall asleep, your brain goes, Hmm, I’m safe.
This feels good. And then. Right.
Cassandra: [00:15:02] This is why mommy come lay with me. That’s where that comes from. Mommy, come lay with me. So you’ve created this story and you’re telling your kids, and at some point you realized, oh, other people are having this problem. My kids are having this problem. I’ve come up with a solution.
It is working. I need to get other people this solution. So how are you helping the listeners and everybody else
who needs this solution?
Tammy: [00:15:28] It’s really funny because I would tell people like before I made it into a story, it was just, it just started as a bedtime story or bedtime game I did with my kids.
And then people would be like, how do you do that? What I want to try this, this sounds really fun. And so my first Guinea pig was my niece at the time. Who’s the same age as my daughter. My sister called them were like, she’s, I’m having this real trouble. I said, I came up with the story, let’s try it.
So I went and I went to the San Diego botanical gardens, which there’s a bench there. That’s just like my, one of my favorite places in the whole world. And I planned on taking the afternoon. Was going to write it down. I couldn’t figure out how to write it. I was like, how do you explain, like you do this and then you do that.
But like in an interesting way, that would engage a child and be fun to look forward to not just like another, how to like boring thing you’d listened to. And so. I, as I sat there in the garden, I just started writing and it came out as a story of a parent and a child. Now I don’t, it works for both my son and my daughter, not, you know, it’s not specifically boards, they’re girls, but so it came through with a parent and a child doing it so that the reader of the story would then see exactly how to do it through.
Characters. So I wouldn’t have to explain, like, first you do this and then you do this. So I wrote that in a letter to my niece and I sealed it up and sent it on. Luckily I thought of taking a photo of the letter first, before I sent it through the mail and then they got it, they enjoyed it. My sister has five kids, so they enjoyed it.
I don’t think they used it all the time, but they, they were my first Guinea pigs, and then I decided to type it up and it was just kind of something like, oh, someday in the future, I want to. Do that, like, that would be neat someday when I have extra time. When does that ever happen? So and then 2020 happened and it was kind of an interesting wake up for a lot of us.
I think in the specific thought process I had was at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. I did. None of us knew how big of a deal this was going to be or not. And so my thought, and this sounds extreme, but I don’t mean to extreme as extreme. I’m very comfortable with talking about this kind of topic, but I was like at the end of my life, I want to have done this and turn this into a story.
Now, whether that’s in two months, five months or 50 years, Who knows. And it could be this, it could be, you know, another catastrophe or it could be something that happens where I’m like, I better do this now because this is something that I really like. And I passionate it was on my someday list. So I’m going to do it now.
So I wrote it out into the story. I found an illustrator. I searched the whole world for an illustrator. My two finalists were a man in Vietnam and a woman in Madagascar. And I just really loved the images. Her drawing style was just so childlike and fun that I was like, this is, this is the one. So I waited until I had it written a little better.
And I like professionally begged her to take on my story. And she did, and I was so, so good.
Cassandra: [00:18:33] And she’s like, I also previously published illustrator as well. You found this world– I don’t want to know if world renowned as the right thing
Tammy: [00:18:44] or just world published. So she’s done books for other self-published authors and that’s where I found her.
I was looking through other self-published children’s books and, somewhere. Good. Some were not. And I have pretty high standards. So as I was looking through, I was like, this is the one I want. Like, she’s the one. And she has done at least a dozen or more. I don’t know exactly, but she’s done a lot of us.
And I feel like I am really lucky. I got her just in time because after she accepted my project, she started being approached, approached by traditional publishers. And, but because we had signed a contract and. Amazing. She finished my book. Just in time she finished our illustrations a couple of months ago and they’re just, they’re awesome.
They’re exactly what I had in mind and better. I had imagined these cute little scenes and she just turned them into. Fantasy world that is really fun. And adults like love them too, because it’s just so heartwarming and fun. So I’m really excited that she turned my words into this beautiful story that now I get to teach people this method through reading a fun story is just fun for the whole family and easier to understand, and then replicate yourself
Cassandra: [00:19:53] the illustrations. Absolutely stunning. I have the privilege of kind of being behind the scenes and getting to see them. And so they’ve been getting to see even just the dragon black and whites when they came through, I was like, and there’s the yellow page, the popcorn page.
And that’s one of my favorites because it’s just, like you say this magical dream world. It’s it’s they’re fantastic. I cannot wait to see it in person and hold it in my hands.
Tammy: [00:20:23] Let me describe that page to our listeners so they know exactly what it is.
So this was one of the dreams, the, the child and the. Book was having, and she says it as I like to dream about having popcorn and lemonade with my friends. And I was just coming at it from a perspective of like, we’re not with friends right now because we were all locked down and just, this is becoming, everybody’s realizing this is really important.
So we actually. That was a consistent theme throughout being with people you love and things you enjoy doing. So having lemonade and popcorn with your friends. And then I sent that to the illustrator and she turned it into the room is overflowing with popcorn and the lemonade is larger than the kid.
And then they also are holding their little glasses and they’re jumping. There’s a happens to be a cat in the room. That’s a consistent character throughout the story. Who’s like excitedly jumping out of the popcorn and it’s just really fun and kids love that kind of stuff. And I wouldn’t have had the vision to draft it out in a picture.
So that’s how you know, it was so serendipitous of like my idea came together with the specific illustrator that I had to have, and it’s really, really fun.
Cassandra: [00:21:36] I have not talked to you about this, so surprised, but just knowing from what we’ve talked about and even what you’ve shared today, I’ve been working with the kids on like, what are we going to dream about? And I loved the, your description of the rocket ship and then the going to a planet and seeing all the fun bugs and stuff.
Cause I was like, oh, we’re not getting deep enough. Like we’re not doing enough today.
Tammy: [00:21:57] As I said that out loud to rocket ship, right. As I said that out loud, you have to do have to be careful of your kids’ individual triggers. Cause I said, as I said that to you and I mentioned bugs, I was like, Ooh, that would be a bad one in my house because bugs are right.
Oh no. Thank you. The beautiful thing about it too, is like, I just give the example of things you can do, but then you customize it to your kid’s specific interests and things that they really enjoy and really like, and that is where the magic happens.
Cassandra: [00:22:25] It works. So they got up once there was one call and then I said, okay, but I’m going to go cause you need to go build your rocket and you have to close your eyes and go to sleep.
And they were out. So it is working. So I’m very excited to share that with everybody.
Tammy: [00:22:40] Um,
Cassandra: [00:22:41] I hadn’t heard that story yet.
And so how can we support you in this journey with your book? What can we do? How, how can I get my hands on this book, Tammy? That’s what I need to know.
Tammy: [00:22:54] So my website is dream rock, book.com, and that will redirect to wherever is currently being sold.
And so that is coming out very shortly and then and each book comes with a, the book and a rock. So I found a distributor. Which did you know, there was currently a ruck shortage in the world?
Cassandra: [00:23:18] I did, but only because I’ve tried helping you find this
Tammy: [00:23:21] currently a rock shortage, which sounds like the most ridiculous thing.
But I was looking for a very specific rock that is just really pretty and kids like it because it’s, multi-dimensional. Parts are clear and parts are, have color in different layers. And so I wanted something that was really magical and kids can choose their own too. You know, you can go to any crystal shop, but I wanted to include, so that the first night you get it, you don’t have to say, oh, now we got to go find something to do this with.
Nevermind. You know I wanted it to come as a set and it’s really fun. You know how kids love those little surprise.
Cassandra: [00:23:53] Yes,
Tammy: [00:23:54] it’s wrapped in something. So it comes in a little cloth pouch, and then the rocks are the same type, but they’re all different color variations. So purple green, blue clear. And so which one is going to come in your set?
I don’t know, but it’s really pretty. So I’m excited to share that with everybody .
Cassandra: [00:24:10] Thank you so much, Tammy. I think that that wraps up all my questions. Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
Tammy: [00:24:17] Yeah. So I was really excited when you asked me to do this episode, because I have always been a big fan of your podcast specifically because of the name of your podcast.
And I love the needed and known aspect. And I think that is a direct relation to my mission with this dream rock book and that. The real magic is not just, you know, changing your thoughts to positive thoughts. Yay. Like, great. Put my kid to bed, you know, go to sleep. It’s more than just that it is developing a safe space, developing that trust and the dreams that you then come up with after you read the book and then you do the method yourself.
Customizing the dreams and talking about it with things that you love that are in your home and dreams that are specific things that your kid loves. Like, we talk about having Minecraft dreams all the time, because that’s specifically what my son is into my daughter’s really into dragons right now.
So we talk about having these dragon fantasy experiences and all this stuff. And so what does that do right then? Takes me and my child together and helps them feel like I am aware of what they care about. It helps them feel like someone has noticed them and what they’re interested in. And just as, as much as it is interesting that they feel calm when they talk about things that they love, they feel calm when someone else who lives in there.
Looks at them gets down on their level. It’s really important to me that I sit with them either sit on their bed or kneel down next to their bed. And I’m eye to eye with this child. I’m not looming over them as an adult. And I get with them on the same page. And that is one of the aspects of it that really helps them settle down.
And if I do it as an adult helps me settle down. When I feel like somebody cares about what I care about and hears me say what I care about and repeats that back to me or says, that sounds so beautiful and so excited for you. You’re going to have great dreams. How fun, what a good idea. How validating is that to our child?
Who was struggling with fears or being scared or being lonely or worried who now had this touching trust building moment with their parent. And now they can go to sleep because they’ve been heard is really, really important. And it’s a, I haven’t elaborated on that as much in the book, but it is a true psychological effect of doing this process with your child.
And so I was just so excited when I was like, this makes me. And my child feel needed and no. And how much that means to having a good night’s sleep, which leads to better health, which leads to doing better in school, which, you know, being, having better friendships with your friends, because you’re not feeling insecure.
You’ve got, you know, you’ve got this. Supportive system at home and especially at bedtime, which is such an intimate, cozy time of day for kids. So that’s why I was just so excited that you asked me to be on here because I think it’s absolutely relevant and it being needed and known makes you healthier, happier, and sleep better.
So thank you, Cassandra.
Cassandra: [00:27:25] Thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.
If at this point you find yourself saying, what was the name of that book again? Remember I always put the links in the show. Or you can find [email protected] slash podcast. Thank you for helping Tammy to feel needed and known until you need me next time.