Once Upon A Family…
Stories are magical any time of the year, but stories about family members, are extra special to young children. The ones that are most popular are the adventures, or misadventures, of moms and dads when they were kids, and of siblings. Tucked away in my heart, are the countless times my mother used to tell about how far she had to walk to school. My granddad had stories too, especially about the family’s black dog and why he was called Red. (My sister and aunt painted him.)
Did you know that stories like these are a tremendously valuable part of childhood and contribute to social and emotional development? A friend posted a terrific article called “The Stories That Bind Us” written by Bruce Feiler, in the NY Times. Trying to answer the question about what holds a family together, he realized that “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”
The stories about hardships, successes, memorable events and ordinary, mundane details create a sort of safety-net for kids. According to psychologist Sara Duke, “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” The children have better self-esteem, higher resilience and a greater sense of control in their lives because “They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”
Families may not have the same amount of time to be together with everyone so busy, so we need to take advantage of minutes where we find them. A car ride may be long enough for a story or two, or bath time, or waiting for supper to cook. For a play-of-the-day today, can you share a story with your children about when you were little?
When I saw this quote from Thomas Bray, I knew I had found a way to talk about emotions and feelings and how they are a part of a magical childhood. Childhood is not just ways to play and learn about the surrounding world, it’s also ways to discover the inner world of the heart and how to play and connect with others.
As a child, it is more than wonderful to feel loved and understood. Happiness does not mean there are never any challenges or concerns; it means that parents are there for both encouragement and support. Children have freedom to explore and can take risks because they feel secure that those caring for them have acceptable limits and boundaries. Happiness is not a wealth of toys but a richness of caring.
In an article on Teaching Your Child the Art of Happiness, Dr. Laura Markham says happiness is less a result of luck and more a product we create. She gives steps to helping children learn to manage their moods, by acknowledging and allowing the feelings, then perhaps changing or shifting them. Being optimistic and grateful are important and so are having fun and celebrating. There will be times of sadness and grief and we need to leave space in our lives for that too. “Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean repressing our feelings. It means acknowledging and honoring our feelings, and then letting them go.” Cue the lyrics: Let it go, let it go…
Perhaps, we could modify Thomas Bray’s quote, “Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow,” to be “Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which CHILDREN grow.” How do you help your child to be happy?
The Magic of Risky Play By the time there have been 21 previous posts on ways to make childhood magical like imaginative play, singing, science fun, sharing books, connecting with nature, blanket forts, and others, it’s probably time to include some comments on risky play. As parents and caregivers, we want to keep our kids … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? #22 Risky Play
There is nothing like the satisfaction of making a mess. Having a magic wand to clean it up would be a definite plus, but still and all, messy play is pretty enjoyable. A formula for a magical childhood could be: play + mess. What makes messy play so much fun? For a start, messy play … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? #21 – Messy Play
The Magic of Both Routine and Surprise Life with kids can feel like a teeter-totter with all its ups and downs. In a way, that’s part of the magic. And parents needs to be magicians to balance both routine and surprise. Grownups think of routine as humdrum, a rut, stale, and boring but to children … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? #20 Routine vs Surprise
The Magic of Friends During the preschool years children’s brains grow faster than at any other time in their lives, but we sometimes forget that their hearts, that is emotions and feelings, are also developing. We need to give kids the opportunities for building their social and emotional skills as well as their muscles and … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 19: Friends
Fun with the Family is Magical One of the reasons why vacations and holidays are so special is because the family has time to be together. For children, the event or occasion is much less important than having fun with everybody else. If you think back to your childhood, are there some great memories of … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 18: Family Fun
Kids CAN make their own magic! It’s called science… Kids are natural scientists, curious and wanting to know. Days spent figuring things out, trying, exploring, and asking questions are a big part of what makes childhood magical. I’m sure it’s no surprise to many parents that children ask more than 300 questions a day! Asking … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 17: Magic aka Science
The Magic of Having a Special Place While we’d all like to give our kids a magical childhood, sometimes instead of giving we need to take something away, as in letting our kids have a space for themselves. Three families that I know were all busy on the weekend making a play space for their … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 16: Own Space