The holidays are over and the kids are back to school. Their stress level is high and perhaps will get higher. Kids do not get stresses you say? Wrong! They get stressed just as much as adults.
Research suggests that stress plays a role in every child’s development leading to a whole range of mental problems. According to US Surgeon General David Satcher, one out of ten American children suffer from mental illness and stress is one of the leading causes. And findings by Professors Reunette W. Harris and Charles Nemeroff suggest that stressful childhood experiences can effect an individual’s response to stress later in life. These experiences can be positive or negative.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian psychoanalyst, believes that stories we tell are “healing machines” which help us to manage our stress among other things. Ongoing research is looking at how families tell stories and how this telling helps to make kids more resilient and able to handle stress. One researcher believes that telling stories both good and bad show kids that even though bad things happen, you can go on and find a way to survive.
Novella Ruffin, an Extension Child Development Specialist at Virginia State University, says that children experience extreme stress and have bad feelings just like adults. But unlike most adults, children lack the skills or means to understand and manage their stress. They rely on their parents and other adults to help them.
So, how can we help our kids manage their day to day stress? One way is to have a family storytelling session every evening. You do not have to have anything elaborate, just pick an area where everyone would feel comfortable. It could be at the dinner table after supper, in the family room or in the living room. If you have children that share a bedroom, perhaps you might want to do it just before their bedtime.
If your children are not delighted with the idea, then you may have to start off slowly such as just talking to them and asking them questions about their day. Do not press them to participate. Then as they become more comfortable read them a story or tell a story yourself. With practice you can increase the length of the time you spend and start to encourage the children to join in by getting them to tell stories about what happened to them during the day. Make positive comments about the kid’s story. Do not try to interpret the story or suggest improvements. Just accept the story for what it is and enjoy it.
Your family storytelling session can become a favorite pastime and looked forward to by all members of your family.