Stories help to shape who we are throughout the course of our lives, but especially in our early years. Ideas and lessons from the books we read and stories we hear at early ages and across our school years can have a lasting impact on our character, our knowledge and interests, and our morals and values. Storybooks can therefore be a brilliant way to communicate sensitive topics to our children and teach them important lessons in an easy to understand, fun way.
Here are some of the topics that can be approached through storytelling to help your children understand, learn and grow.
Teach your children about the people in the world around them
Stories are a great tool to teach your children about the world around them, especially all the different people who occupy it. Your child might not see a diverse range of cultures, races, religions or family units in their local community, so may be surprised or confused when seeing, for example, a child at school with two dads, or a woman wearing a hijab, if they haven’t seen anything like this before.
Introducing diversity at a young age through the books and stories that they engage with will help your child to see all the different sorts of people in the world and learn as they grow up that diversity is important to society.
On the other hand, your child might come from a minority or non-traditional family, and story books can be incredibly helpful in those situations too. You might be wondering how to explain IVF to a child for example. Using a book to explain sperm donors or a book to explain egg donors makes the sensitive subject easier to understand as a whole.
Teach your children how to treat others
Learning to treat others with respect, thoughtfulness and kindness is a key part of growing up. This is often learnt in an active way once your child starts interacting with others at nursery or school. It helps to add to this active learning in other ways, through open and honest communication, and teaching through stories. Seeing characters act with kindness and respect in stories will have a positive effect, as well as seeing the hurt feelings and consequences of other characters being unkind or disrespectful. This is also a good opportunity to teach children about “not judging a book by its cover”, and links back to learning about diversity.
Teach your children how to approach and deal with sensitive issues
There are times when your child will need to deal with something sensitive, whether that is learning about where they came from (particularly in the case of LGBTQ families) or coping with a difficult situation such as the loss of a loved one. With sensitive issues like these you’ll want all the tools you can find to help make the process easier for both you and your child. Stories and books can be particularly useful to help explain the situation and the new feelings they may be dealing with. For example, explaining to your child that they were donor conceived can be a sensitive situation, and confusing for the child. With IVF children’s books or a personalised storybook your child will be able to engage with the facts in a whole new personal way, which will make the situation easier and can create a warm family memory.
Teach your children about coping with new situations and emotions
Change – it’s a scary word for lots of us, and even more so for our children. Approaching a new situation as a child, whether that is joining a new school, getting a new sibling or step-parent, learning about where they came from, or moving to a new area, is a big deal and often very emotional. Teaching your children how to understand and address the emotions they feel when experiencing something new is vital for healthy growth, and is something that stories are a great tool for. Children’s books are a brilliant tool to help in these situations, and a gentle way to introduce a sensitive and complicated subject. Books and personal stories can help show your child that they aren’t alone, and help them understand and process their emotions around the situation.
Teach your children about communication
Reading books and listening to stories is also an important tool for teaching your child about communication. This includes developing language skills, learning about the importance of communication, and the ability to communicate their needs and emotions effectively. Being able to communicate effectively is a key life skill, and the earlier your child can understand and develop it, the better.