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The Power of Storytelling

As travel becomes easier and people move to different areas of the globe, families become more and more scattered. I am a South-African, living in Canada. My family still lives in South-Africa. I’ve always missed home – but once my children were born, the longing became an achingly painful search to find more ways for my children to connect with their Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles abroad.

Skype chats happen weekly {sometimes daily during big life events} in our home – but what are some other ways that we try to stay connected?

Story-telling is probably our strongest connecting element. After each visit to South-Africa, we retell all the stories to our children.

The stories consist of the big moments “remember when we saw the sea for the first time…”and the everyday moments “when you were a baby, papa would walk you up and down the stairs whenever you were crying.” My children are South-African and Canadian because of the power of storytelling. As they mature, the narratives will become more detailed and they will come to understand their heritage because the stories of our trips will be told over and over again.

Stories help my children to be proudly South-African and proudly Canadian.

I have also started using storytelling to teach my children about their inner worlds… My children are young, so I find photographs priceless in helping them to remember a moment we have shared together. I will then talk about some of the feelings or thoughts associated with the photograph.

So, I might say, “This is Mom saying goodbye to Nana and Papa at the airport. Her heart felt heavy because she was sad to say goodbye to Nana and Papa. Dad gave Mom a big hug…” 

Daniel Siegel calls this form of story-telling “Mindsight.” Mindsight refers to the ability to understand the mind through exploring feelings, thoughts and memories. Instead of just simply talking about the behaviours in an event or a memory, we weave feelings and thoughts into the memory. In doing so, emotional and social intelligence is nurtured. Daniel Siegel introduces Mindsight in this short videoclip: https://www.kidsinthehouse.com/teenager/parenting-teens/talking-with-your-teen/how-to-help-kids-develop-empathy-and-insight

I hope that as my children grow older, we will continue our tradition of looking through the photos from our trips home. Not only does it connect us to a faraway land and to family, but it provides new ways of understanding the world and one another.  In the words of Libba Bray “ there is no greater power on this earth than story.”

August 8, 2018 / Tania Johnson, R.Psych

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