I regularly work with children in my West London practice who face different worry inducing situations. In some cases they suffer from anxiety, in others, they have fear of failing, sometimes they lack the motivation to study and in some cases they don’t know how to face up to bullying. At NLP4Kids we frequently work with young people experiencing anxiety issues via schools to reduce the negative impact of anxiety and worrying situations.
In my therapy session many times I include story telling as a way of communicating a message to them. A subtle message allows them to put perspective into their issues and work through the problem
Story telling for you and your kids
Basic stories can have a great effect on kids, and we are fortunate that there is an abundance of great books out there to make us and our kids great readers. As well as what already exists, we have within us the abilities and capacities to complement this, by boosting our kids imagination, helping them dream, helping them aim higher, find solutions, and even talk to us and solve problems that they might not freely tell us – all through the power of story. But let’s face it, when it’s the end of the day the kids are tired, we are tired and looking forward to some quiet time with our partner or in front of the TV relaxing, who has time to write stories?
Who said anything about writing?! We are all storytellers and with a little bit of effort and a few minutes you can make of those minutes with your kids a fantastic opportunity to boost their imagination, relax yourself, share your most inner ideas with them, build something different every night. Create your own little world together.
Let’s start with the basic ideas:
– Yes, you can do it! We all have loads of imagination (just think about all those times you found yourself day dreaming about your holidays!) Don’t give up before you have even started!
– Get in the mood. Small things make big differences. Take off your shoes, dress comfortably, sit or lay on the bed close to them, dim down the lights,
– Pick your time and use it wisely. Make sure they are in the mood as well; some days they will prefer a book, sometimes they will be too tired. It is better to tell a few stories and really enjoyed than overdoing it.
– The more you do it the better it gets, so keep doing it. Practice won’t make perfect, but that’s ok – they all will be good stories if you all try. It’s meant to be fun for all and there are no ratings or scores, no bosses to impress or boardroom standards to reach. Kids will be a lot more forgiving than adults, and will be grateful to you for just trying and spending that time with them.
Creating your story, the message
If you have a message (remember, you don’t need to have a message!) make sure that is clear and simple. Some ideas could include confidence, facing up to problems, or concentrating in school for instance.
Put the message in a new context/environment. If you want to talk about concentration in school avoid the school idea at all. Could it be at the park? Could it be when making cupcakes? It doesn’t really matter the new environment as long as it is not linked with the original one. They are wise people and will see the obvious tricks. If you don’t have a message, don’t worry. It is perfectly fine and equally enjoyable, and there is a real benefit in stimulating their imagination.
Richness of the words
Make sure you use a variety of different words to describe places, situations or feelings. This will help the kids, and yourself, to get into the story. Think about not just what something is, but what it looks like, what it feels like, how the character sees it, and how you can make the scene more vivid. For instance, a sunny day sitting on the grass could be: ‘It was a bright day, the sky was blue like the sea and the few clouds had the texture of cotton and they looked as warm as my pillow. The grass was full of small drops of water and when Peter stepped on them the drops run up his toes giving him a refreshing chill that went all the way up his legs, his belly and got to his arms, his fingers and up to his neck, ears and eyes.’
The trick with this is not over do it or it will be a too long story! Even if it is bedtime the aim is to entertain, not to send your children to sleep from boredom.
A good rule is to follow the five senses. We have 5 senses the more of those that you use to describe something, the richer it will be and the more immersed into the story you and your kids will be.
Use your body
You can use your arms and hands to build up the ideas, or to make noises. You can put your hands on your mouth when there has to be silence in the story. Or over covering you eyes if you are ‘facing’ something you don’t like. You can also ask them to do certain moves as well; we are on this together!
Let your voice do its job
Your tone and how it changes will be the biggest source of communication and stimulation. Make sure you alter it regularly and alongside with the story. Sometimes it will be fast like running towards that balloon that is flying away from you. Sometimes it will be as slooooow as Mr Snail when he goes for his lunch. You can say a lot in the way you say things, and your children will respond to this.
I find it useful to have characters to which my daughters can relate but not too closely. In my case I have two girls with very different names to my daughters, who look different, but may have similar concerns, and use the same characters in a few stories. This helps them to become familiar quickly and remember more of the story the next day.
Again, the richness is in the variation. The characters could be anything you want, people, animals, fairies or other made up creatures.
The basic beginning, Middle and end
It sounds simple but keep it in mind. Sometimes it helps to not have a set agenda on time or message, or sometimes you might be limited on time so you might want to ensure you go through the phase at certain speed.
Leave the end open
If your story has an underlying theme or a message you want them to think about, it might be a good idea to let them work it out for themselves. This way they will adopt it as their own. Don’t be afraid to ask them about the story and what they are thinking, but make sure you are curious rather than challenging – this is not a test!
It’s about you as much as about them
Every time I make a story with my kids I leave the room refreshed and relaxed. The things that worried me during the day have disappeared, I feel relaxed and content, I now can go an enjoy dinner or time with my wife.
It’s amazing how much kids pick up from all aspects of story telling. They regularly come to me with bits and pieces of past stories and they identify themselves with the characters. They have even taken on making up their own stories many days!
And finally, my personal bit of advice: It is well worth it, for them and for us. You will learn as well from your story and you will relax, enjoy and remember fondly those moments.
If you want to find out more about my therapy work with children and young people to combat stress and anxiety please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to see you at my therapy practice in West London.
If you want to read or contribute to stories feel free to do so at www.letstellstories.org
NLP4Kids practitioner – West London