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Books and Storytelling with children

Many children encounter uncomfortable, often confusing feelings and adverse childhood experiences which are difficult for them to understand and process, they can feel like they are the only one, that nobody else will understand and that can feel very lonely.

Children often do not have the ability to express how they are feeling using everyday language and parents and other adults are often met with what seems like rudeness or mumbles that don't make sense, because of this children and young people often feel unheard. Like adults, they need the time, space and to process difficult feelings and experiences, If they are not given this opportunity these feelings may turn into unhelpful coping mechanisms like self-harm, unhealthy habits, shutting down and they may develop challenging behaviours including anger and aggression.

Children often find it difficult or even impossible to communicate in a helpful way, perhaps because they don't always know how they are feeling or behaving or why, this adds to the frustration especially when adults ask why and expect an answer. Imagine the pressure and frustration to explain something you don't understand...

Adults can play an important role in enabling children to explore and work through difficult feelings and experiences at home to support any therapeutic interventions they may be receiving but how do they do this? Often adults have had difficult childhoods themselves and were left unheard and understood therefore they may not have the experience and communication skills to support their children effectively.

Snakes and Ladders Children's Counselling often recommend books for parents to read at home with their child to try to open up exploration of thoughts, feelings and experiences, this also may help improve relations between parent and child.

How reading books with your child may help

Over the years storytelling has been used and stories past down through generations to communicate important messages to children and children’s stories often use metaphor to explain sensitive issues, explore emotions and develop children’s moral understanding, stories help to capture imaginations.

Stories can be a great way of exploring tricky subjects with children as they often use language children and young people are familiar with. Children often use things in play and creative expression which are using thought of as representative or symbolic of something else communicating their experiences, feelings and exploring parts of their personality through play and pictures. Through this play and creative expression children are telling their story and finding a natural way to make sense of their personal experiences; they may also take themselves on an imaginary adventure where they face many challenges, this is similar to what happens in a story.

Essentially children use metaphor as a tool to explore themselves and their world, reading books with children provides an opportunity for important time together and a chance to explore feelings and experiences within the safe distance of a story or character appose to through direct conversation which can seem scary as children often worry what others may think or feel about what they are expressing.

A therapeutic story is read to a child to help them explore their own difficult experiences and emotions. Reading encouraging stories containing positive messages can give hope. Presenting difficult feelings and experiences the child may be dealing with in a story may help the child feel less alone, they may begin to recognise any unhelpful coping strategies they may be using and suggest possible negative outcomes. Often a story offers a different way of understanding a situation, it may show a more helpful way to deal with their situation. Books can encourage children to recognise helpful adults to support them and help them feel OK to ask for help.

Through showing empathy and understanding to a character or situation in a story the adult reading is effectively offering these qualities to the child as well.

The information contained in a story can work on a subconscious level, children are like sponges and absorb much they are not consciously aware of therefore, reading books featuring super heroes, characters that have overcome adversities similar to theirs and stories which offer explanations and examples of similar experiences can offer hope. Reading books with your child can offer the opportunity to find the words to express how they are feeling and what they have experienced.

Take a look at the recommended book list for examples and a guide of how to begin and/or

If you feel your child would benefit from therapeutic support please see our website

Connect with your child, start reading with them today.

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1 Comment

To connect with your child by reading together is very good advice, reading with my dad as a child are some of my most treasured memories.

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