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Thursday, 17 January 2013

How Story-Telling Improves Your Child's Well-Being

First of all, let me start with a disclaimer: I am not a Mum blogger, I am an au pair.
Second, let me tell you how I’ve enriched (or at least I believe I did) a five-year-old’s life in the past few months. As some of you know, I moved to Rome last August, and I’ve loved my new job, my new friends, and overall my new life. The toddler boy in question has made my life richer and happier as well!

I finally learned how to "play and stay", not think about lists or chores, and all that shit.
Meanwhile, I have stumbled upon something I didn’t even think about at first. When I came here last year, I didn’t know much about sole charge babysitting. I had only worked with a family once before, and it was always around the mum. I was learning, but I had no freedom to be myself.
And when I was finally given the chance to be myself, unexpected things happened.
I won’t give you the list, but I will share one little practice that has become a loved tradition in the mornings and afternoons. I call it “story time”. No, it’s not reading from a book before bed. It’s inventing a story on the way to school and back. We live ten minutes from school, so we walk there, and this gives us plenty of time to tell a whole story with a beginning and end. (It works in the car, too.)
And because there’s a little boy involved, these stories often contain superhero trains, silly Violeta birds, and giant meatballs trying to eat the world and everybody in it. At first the little man didn’t really understand the concept of story-telling, and kept asking me to “read him one”. I’d tell him whole stories, with morals and everything, and he’d get transfixed by them. His mum couldn’t be happier!
Then, suddenly, he was telling the stories. All of it, I’d just say the first sentence.
Sometimes he’d run out of air and ask “then what happened?” but I’d only have to say one sentence and he’s gotten his stride again. It’s amazing how much his mind can come up with, borrowing elements from cartoons, books, and movies he’s read and watched, and from life. And, of course, some elements came right out of his imagination. That’s what I wanted to talk about. Imagination.
In my opinion, imagination is one of those senses we can’t live without. I know they say intuition is the sixth sense, so I’ll have to settle for the seventh being imagination. If you ask me, it’s the most important one! Not every child gets the chance to develop it from an early age. Sure, they all watch movies and read books, so that helps. But what about story-telling? It can be so exciting for a little child!
I’m not saying this just because I’m a writer. I’ve been talking to psychologist friends (who could be spiritual) and spiritual friends (who could be psychologists), and we’ve come to the same conclusion: people with a richer imagination have bigger potentials to change and to be happy. Why? Because they have the power to imagine themselves and their lives richer and happier, which then helps them achieve it in “the real world”. Vizualization, after all, is one of the most powerful tools for well-being.
Ask any Positive Psychologist or Life Coach: we are what we think about. And life is what we think it is. Imagination helps us think in better ways. And I know from personal experience what it’s like to try and help a person with little imagination. You try to explain that happiness is a choice and that they can be anything they want to be, as long as they can see it in their mind’s eye, and believe it’s possible. But they say “well, I can’t really see that” and they give up! There’s nothing more frustrating than this, really.
Imagination makes life better, not just art. It’s the deepest well: once uncovered, it floods the place.
Happiness is the same. Once you know it, you can help your child see it, too. And because I truly believe happiness is a choice, not the result of something that happened to us, something we had no control over, I tell the little man that he doesn’t have to be sad every time he throws a tantrum, he could choose to be happy instead, hoping it will sink in one day. And I know for a fact, his mum agrees 100%.
It’s amazing how telling stories can lead to happiness in the long runNot everyone would make the connection; I certainly didn’t when I started telling these stories. But I’m glad I did. I now know more about life and happiness than before. It's inevitable when it comes to parenting, isn't it?

What are YOUR strategies of making your child happy? Do YOU tell stories?