As a parent or educator you will know children have plenty to say!! However, sometimes kids simply can’t find the words to express themselves. As a parent you may intuitively know there is something bothering your child but you also know if you ask them what’s wrong they are unlikely to tell you explicitly as oftentimes they may feel something but not be able to verbalise it. Or they may worry that if they tell you, they will find themselves in trouble.
How to support your children to find their voice through books and stories
How many times have you asked, “How was your day?” Only to be greeted with “Fine”. Asking your children questions like, “Tell me three good things about today?” will more likely result in a more open conversation about the day and you are knowingly supporting your children to engage with positive aspects of their day rather than the negative.
This said, if your child appears unhappy then it’s just as easy to ask them to tell you of the specifics of those things that aren’t great. Sometimes, through the use of story or narrative we can elicit more from our children. Your child may want to tell you a story relating to their day or you may use stories and narrative to explore feelings and wellbeing with children at home or in the classroom.
As a psychotherapist working with children I understand around three in every ten children in every classroom age between 5 and 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition; before your child becomes one of the three in ten let’s think about how we can support them to explore their feelings and discuss things with you as a parent or an appropriate professional.
As one in every two marriages end in separation and or divorce it is essential for children to explore their feelings in relation to this and any other worries or concerns they may have. Many of the young people I meet with are struggling as a result of separation. When things go wrong at home, children have a tendency to blame themselves. We know that this is unlikely and that any parental conflict is associated with the child themselves but for a child it is hard for them to see that the difficulties are not necessarily associated with them.
The one thing we all know is children love to be read to and some children love to read. Using stories and narratives can really help your child or children to open up about things that may be bothering them.
Here are my top tips for using narrative and stories to support your children to find their voice.
1. Find stories and books that relate to feelings and emotions
2. Read these stories to your children and see what transpires
3. These stories may bring up unexpected responses about home life, friendships, school or feelings. Try to listen and support your child with what comes up
4. Try not to offer solutions but in the first place simply listen
5. Build trust through listening and then you will be able to explore their feelings with them
6. Look for books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition – children love to connect through the musicality of literature
7. Strong visual images in kids’ book will hold interest – look out for these
8. Look for relatable books that have deeper meanings
If you have any concerns relating to your child’s wellbeing, ensure you seek professional support and speak to the relevant individuals or organisations.
Vivien Sabel MA Psych. is a psychotherapist and the award-winning author of The Blossom Method (baby book) and author of kids’ book Robot Meg: She Lives In My HEAD.
For more information please see www.viviensabel.com