The power of stories in developing good emotional wellbeing
Stories and storytelling are a safe and playful way for young children and babies to learn about the complex world of both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. In my work, I spend a lot of time reading stories with children of all ages as they provide a useful metaphor for teaching and exploration and are hugely disguised as learning through play.
As parents we have it drummed into us that reading to and with our babies and children is crucial for their development, but do we really understand why?
Yes reading is key to their academic skills and the basis for most of our educations however, there is far more to it than simply just literacy skills.
Firstly, exploring the emotions of the characters in stories helps us learn about what emotions are. Why do we have this feeling, when does it happen and what does it mean? We can label the emotions they experience which helps our children to develop an emotional vocabulary. When children can label the emotions they feel they are less likely to act out in ways that are unacceptable.
We can discuss how the characters experience the emotions such as having a tummy ache when they are nervous or getting a hot, red face when they are angry and relate this to ourselves so that we learn the body signs associated with emotions. When we talk about the emotions we can model the faces that you might expect to see for our children to see and usually they will mirror this as this is how they are programmed to learn. If they don’t, simply give them a gentle prompt.
We can look at how the characters manage the feelings and comment on whether they made good or bad choices in how to manage the feelings presented. This illustrates to them what is and what is not acceptable behaviour in the world we live in.
Lastly we can help our children and babies relate these feelings and experience to themselves to learn empathy which is a key social skill in being able to form and maintain friendships and relationships with others.
Helpful questions we can ask;
– How would you feel if that was you?
– How is this character feeling right now?
– What is happening to his body when he feels like this?
– Have you ever felt like this?
– What could he do if he feels…?
– Why did he feel like that?
It can feel a bit unnatural and teacher like at first to have this level of discussion but trust me, your child will love the closeness and attention this provides them and in time it will become second nature for you.
If you really want to you, can add another dimension to this exploration by joining in with some small world play based around a story. This can really help children to put themselves in another’s shoes and develop good empathy skills. You could also develop alternative endings and delve into other ways to handle tricky and overwhelming feelings.
The other important wellbeing aspect of sharing stories is that it helps our children and babies to start developing good self esteem. They aren’t born with this attribute. Its something that we have to foster in them and starting off early really helps.
By spending this special time with them we are responding to their need for positive attention. If we have a regular story time they learn stability and that they can always depend on us.
It allows childen to develop their own ideas and opinions when we interact with them about concepts and morals within a story and lastly it helps them feel that they belong within the family unit to have this special shared time for connection.
Have a go next time you share a story with your little or not so little ones.
Thank you to Sandie at Miraculous Me for writing this guest blog for us. Why not come along and chat with Miraculous Me at The Norfolk Bump & Beyond Baby and Toddler Fair. If you can’t wait that long, then check out their website here.