Monday, 25 May 2015

"Quietness" and Story Therapy for children

You can't help but notice that there's a lot of mention and promoting these days of the benefits of deliberately finding "space" in the day or taking time out of busy lives to meditate or "just be".

There has been a big rise in the discovery and enjoyment of learning meditation techniques and Mindfulness and how this is beneficial. Mindfulness, once learnt and practiced regularly can be part of relapse prevention for mild depression and anxiety for many people.

I love the fact that people everywhere are discovering that stepping back from the pace of life, or even the lack of pace of life, and becoming quiet and still enables them to find and benefit from an inner peacefulness. And that in that inner peacefulness all sorts of profound and interesting discoveries about the self and life are found.

Teachers of meditation and spiritual things tell us that what we are discovering is our "true nature" ie we are, once we put our often inaccurate stories about ourselves, life and how life ought to be aside, in touch with a serenity and strength that is always within us. The busyness and stress of life causes us to lose touch with this. For so many people this losing touch, combined with very real stressful or even tragic life events, pushes them into distress and mental illness.

It makes sense to me that children are more receptive and much closer to their "true natures" than us adults. Children are naturally freer in spirit and enthusiasm for life. They are also more open to accepting new ideas. They absorb and take on values and views about life easily. And because of this many advocates of meditation are coming up with ways of teaching children the benefits of stilling their minds - mindfulness for children. Why? Because acquiring the skills of self-compassion, de-stressing, relaxation and the ability to mediate in some way will stand them in good stead later in life. 

It can also introduce ways of talking with children about emotional and mental states - and perhaps the stigma that, sadly, still exists around emotional and mental illness in our adult world could be reduced further in the future.

Can we help our children learn more about human emotions and emotional states than we ever learned?  And develop natural techniques they can use to help themselves and understand others? I think so.

There are programes that can be taught in fun and relaxing ways to school age children either at home or in groups in school.  or 


Even very young children can be shown how to become "Quiet". I used to play a game with my nursery group children which we called The Listening Game. Sitting in a circle together, usually just before story-time and when I already knew the environment around us was fairly quiet, I'd ask the children to sit as still and silently as possible and to LISTEN carefully for any sounds. What could they hear going on outside? What could they hear within the room or along the corridor? What could they hear within themselves - their breathing? The sense of stillness and observing silence this created seemed to be enjoyed by all the children. And that peacefulness seemed to stay with them at the end of our Listening Game. Afterwards the children often wanted to either remain quiet for longer or only speak softly or in whispers for a few minutes longer! They had discovered and enjoyed a stillness within.

Using stories and especially interactive stories is also a good way of introducing children to the idea of emotional and inner states which we all have. Stories that show characters finding ways through upsets or difficulties are important as children will absorb ideas and begin to think in more helpful ways about any difficulty of their own they might have. They might spontaneously share something they have been worrying or struggling with - or they might quietly absorb. And that quiet absorbing of a new idea can become the beginnings of a solution or better way of seeing something.

So I do think there is such a thing as "story therapy" - where stories become the gateway for exploring thoughts, feelings, emotions and finding different and new ways of seeing things that can be taken from the stories and used in real life. Some can also be used with children as a starting point for finding a quiet space for relaxing, pausing and enjoying the benefits of sometimes stopping and just being.