Helping your child build and restore a sense of story
Have you ever noticed how the world is filled with stories? Commercials, songs, people’s conversation, of course literature, history, science etc etc. Stories help us remember and understand. They are clarifying and give meaning.
Regardless of the age of your child, he/she has a story being told. It is now and will be in the future, their own story with many chapters. The younger they are, the less likely they will understand and be able to narrate the experiences in their life that are chapters of this story. Early on in childhood, memory is stored in a way we refer to as implicit, which means they store memories in senses, feelings, images, and without language. Implicit memory is always attached to a larger sense of how things felt, “how” the experience was for them. As children develop they are able to start wrapping language around their experiences. You may find they share details about their days and experiences with increased details. It is normal for children to sometimes embellish the details and “tell a tale.” Don’t worry about this. We will talk later about separating pretend and real stories. The purpose of your attention to this will help your child tell an accurate story of their lives. At the same time that narrating the details of their day occurs we want to see an increased ability for the child to talk about their own feelings. ( see skill sheet on feelings). The brain integrates and wires around these skills building on it throughout their life.
In some cases, sadly a child may be in a circumstance that does not support their fully integrated perspective of their own story, meaning-what they have experienced in their life. Often in complex custody situations, a child may not be fully able to hold two experiences of belonging in both of their homes to an equal degree due to lack of support, messages they receive or developmental needs. This is where the skills go far in helping the child experience both.
We know that children who can tell their stories benefit in many ways. First, being able to put words to feeling states, even at a young age helps children be more resilient, cope better in difficulties, get support and help when they need it. Of great importance is that the child is better able to regulate or manage their emotions. As discussed in the feelings skill sheet, anytime we can wrap language around our experiences we have more mastery over our emotions and stress. Secondly, a child who can tell their story builds meaning from their experiences, their OWN meaning rather than something they have heard or have been told. Of course they can take input but also can recall their implicit and explicit experiences and hold that meaning.
copyright Kristine Clay 2015