For ages now, storytelling has been known for its powers over soothing children and contributing to their creativity, learning and growth of important skills like reading, writing and logical thinking.
What I found however, extremely fascinating about storytelling is the fact that it supports children and adults alike in healing from past experiences that were painful, or frightening in some way.
When my daughter was five, I wanted to enroll her in swimming school. She loved water and enjoyed going the beach all the time, and that sort of encouraged me to think that swimming would be a great sport for her. In her first day of training, she slipped while she was walking by the pool – she didn’t slip into the pool (Thank God) but just on the sideway. Like all kids, she cried and whined about it, till she felt it was ok to move on. Then she has her first swimming lesson, which I thought she enjoyed very much.
In three months, my daughter stopped going to swimming at all. It started gradual but she just feared going, and back then I didn’t understand what happened to her love of water.
Until one day, I simply asked, with an open heart to really listen; “honey, you used to really love swimming and playing in the pool. What happened?” – that day for the first time I have deeply listened to my daughters fear of falling down and hurting herself, and to her story of what exactly happened.
But what was even more fascinating to me is how she told the story from her perspective; “I slipped, I was wearing my slippers and they hurt my toes, and my shoulder hurts too – water is always slippery” That was all she recalled from the story.
In allowing her to tell the story, I was able to fill in some important details; “yes I remember, I was standing by your side and I reached immediately to pull you up. Remember?” “Yes, your toes did hurt I remember, but we put ice on them and the pain just went away and you were able to enjoy swimming right?” My daughter didn’t tell me this story once or twice; she told me the story over and over for a few months and I would every time support her by helping her remember important facts of what happened. In time, however she no longer had this fear of pools, actually when she was almost six and half she asked to start going to swimming lessons again and she did, and enjoyed it very much and was very keen on it.
What I have later learned, through my counseling and some resources about the human brain (specially The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel & Tina Bryson) that incidents like this trigger heavy emotions for children coming from one part of the brain without integration with the other part. Which leaves the brain making faulty deductions and conclusion of the incidents.
Enabling the kids tell the story and filling in the gaps for them in a compassionate and understanding way enables them to process their feelings, and correct their thinking process – in a sense it enables both parts of the brain to integrate and work together. Which ultimately enables them to reach closure in a healthy developmental way.
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Marwa Advocates for freedom, peace, and building compassionate homes.