This week’s fun holiday is Tell a Fairy Tale Day, and let’s face it, right about now we could all use a little magical thinking. Over the years Fairy Tales have been used in the therapeutic setting to help people look at a personal problem through an objective lens. Using fairy tales can be a powerful tool. Stories themselves are important in our lives. It’s through narratives and the telling of stories that we share experiences and form our identities.
Fairy tales often contain specific elements: The Once Upon a Time opening, the hero/heroine, magic, royalty, a problem, and solution and finally a universal lesson. In fact, these tales are much more than a happily ever after story. They teach children to use their imagination, they enhance creativity and problem-solving skills. Studies have shown the development of the young mind is positively impacted by fairy tales.
Frequent exposure to fairy tales and creative stories will contribute to your child’s development of emotional resiliency, psychological stability, and emotional processing. Because these stories often express emotions and deep feelings that kids have, children are better able to understand and process their own feelings. No matter how many times a child hears the same story, they are typically able to learn new lessons depending upon where they are in their emotional development.
The moment I saw this holiday I thought about my nightly ritual with my daughter. Every night after I put my son to sleep, I go to say goodnight to my daughter, P, and she asks me for a princess story. Some families read books during their nighttime routine; about 6 months ago I started to do something different.
We had just moved into a new house and P was a little frightened to go to sleep since she was in a new, different room; in a new, different house. New sounds, new noises, new lighting situation…everything was new. I could tell that P was anxious, so I decided to tell her a story.
“Once upon a time, there was a Princess named P and she lived in a beautiful castle with her mommy, her daddy, her brother T and her dog named Addie. One day Princess P and her family moved to a beautiful new castle”. I slowly told the ‘story’ of Princess P and her family moving to a new home. I spoke about Princess P feeling anxious about all the new things that were happening, and how she would work through everything. The story ended with “Princess P went to sleep that night and had a wonderful night’s sleep that she woke up the next day and had the best day ever. The End.”.
Since that night, P asks for a Princess story. And each night, I get to tell a different story. I get to tell a story about whatever I decide to talk about. Typically, I take this opportunity to tell a story about something that I noticed P experienced during the day. Maybe it centers around something she is having a hard time dealing with. Maybe its about treating her brother nicely and not hitting him (we’ve all been there). Or maybe it’s about how proud I am that she stuck with a task and accomplished something new.
Every night the story starts the same way, “Once upon a time there was a Princess named P and she lived in a beautiful castle with her mommy, and daddy, her brother T and her dog named Addie. One day…”. It’s become such a routine that now P says the beginning of the story with my and sits in anticipation, wondering what tonight’s story will be about.
I have found this to be such an incredible learning experience for both P and me. Watching her face as she processes what Princess P is going through is truly remarkable. I see her concern or sadness or even embarrassment when I speak of Princess P struggling with something. And I see her excitement when I speak of achieving a hard to accomplish task.
Each night I am given the opportunity to sneak a little life lesson into a story. Something that I know P would not process if I simply sat her down and told her what I wanted to say. After all she’s only 3 ½. I need to meet her at her level. I need to present her with a clear cut, black and white story that she will be able to understand and process. Some nights the stories are 30 seconds, other nights they are 5 minutes.
No matter how long the stories are, they have given me and P our own quality time to have very special and meaningful conversations. 😊