Reproduced, with kind permission, from www.puntofamiglia.net.
It’s time to recover the use of storytelling and fairy tales in our children’s educational journey. Telling a story means inspiring awe, “creating openness towards knowledge.” Let’s begin tonight: once ready for bed, let’s accompany our children into the golden world of fairies, dwarves, and princesses.
Who among us has never been moved before the desperate cries of the seven dwarves who thought they had lost their sweet Snow White forever? Or who was not annoyed by Cinderella’s stepmother and cruel stepsisters? Fairy tales form part of our childhood. They evoke the sweet voices of mom and grandma, who would tell us stories at nightfall, at a time when the television hadn’t yet taken its place of honor in our families’ homes. And how truly sweet was the sound of those voices.
Let’s try to find appropriate times in our families for telling our children stories: fairy tales, fables, or stories from our own childhood. The important thing is to create a relationship that allows your child to diffuse any fears and worries he might have, and to immerse him in a world where his imagination can be developed and his emotions reinforced.
Telling Tales: A Fairy Tale a Day Keeps the Psychologist Away
Many of our time’s struggles will be difficult to fix, at least in the short term: just think about smog, drugs, the energy crisis, and terrorism. We can however, fix our children’s solitude, their need for attention, tenderness, and love. We know an immediate solution at very little price. A fairy tale is enough. One fairy tale is enough to make our child’s life brighter and less boring. It is sufficient too, for strengthening his psychological immune system. One fairy tale is enough to give a caress that will last in his heart forever. Why not begin tonight? Yes, tonight, because the best time to tell fairy tales is in the evening. A child who hears a fairy tale before falling asleep has an intense emotional experience. There is a protective and personal voice that talks to him: the voice of mom or dad. Their voices are infinitely superior to the television’s voice. The television is cold, relentless: it talks on its own and continually moves forward. It doesn’t take questions. It doesn’t have eyes to look at you, nor hands for caressing you. A mother who tells her child stories on the other hand, can follow his gaze, touch his face, adapt her words, and make the right pauses.
There is no better opportunity than a fairy tale to be together and to strengthen your child’s educational relationship. Dialogue is not an exotic plant that can be grown all of a sudden when children reach 15 years old. Dialogue is a humble plant that must be cultivated with patience, beginning in childhood. Dialogue is born as well from the sum of many magical evenings in which mom or dad tell a fairy tale, while the little one sweetly drifts off to sleep. Children without fairy tales become sad adults, with little imagination and much vulnerability. In fact, psychologists say that a child’s relationship to the unknown and imaginary worlds contributes to the development of their logical thought. What is more, fairy tales help children to dispel their fears which, without the stories, could transform into real and true illnesses. Yes, let us begin to tell fairy tales tonight, and every night.
Are Fairy Tales Scary?
Every once in a while, someone comes forward to accuse fairy tales, saying they are cruel and inspiring of fear and worry. Is this true?
No, absolutely not! Condemning fairy tales is excessively zealous, a zeal that misses its target. Fairy tales do not generate fear (or if they do, they are fears which help one to grow). Children find fear everywhere in life. They find it on the television, which too often has violence overflowing from every channel; they find it on the street; yet again they find it when they hear talk about war and abuse.
Fairy tales have exactly the opposite effect of what they are accused: it is fairy tales that help children to overcome so many troubles.
Fairy tales help for two reasons. First, they help because they speak a symbolic language. Plain words such as forest, marsh, fire, witch, and orc, are images for interior states. They are incarnations of vice and passion that are difficult to express in conceptual words. It is easier to use a symbol, which has the advantage of outlining fears well, giving them definite boundaries. This allows us to control and dominate them, and therefore overcome and win over them. The second reason that fairy tales help to overcome fear is found in the fact that all fairy tales have a happy ending. This is reassuring for children. Let’s take, for example, Cinderella. Cinderella makes us relive the problem of sibling rivalry. In fact, even though it isn’t true, often children can feel mistreated like Cinderella. From the heroine’s final victory however, children can feel great hope for the future. That is why at the end of every showing of Walt Disney’s film, when the fateful shoe fits on Cinderella’s foot, there is always thunderous applause. Peace and joy come back into the heart.