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Parenting Through Story-Telling: Advice From a Christian Counselor, Part 1

By Andrew Engstrom, MS, LMFTA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

Image-1As a parent, you have probably heard that you should talk about drugs and sex with your children. Humans beings need to be mentored and you are the best person to guide to your child and adolescent through these sorts of topics. But the guidance you provide need not be limited to exceptional occasions. A parent can greatly support a young person’s development through many small conversations on important topics throughout the course of their life.

One important tool that parents have, but may not be aware of, is that of story-telling. In this series of two articles I want to emphasize the importance of story-telling and suggest seven ways in which it can help you in parenting your child.

Stories are Personal and Build Relationships

Stories are about your own personal history. They are precious because they reveal who you are as a person. But they also help to build relationships, for through them you share things about yourself that others can relate to. Stories are about life – and everyone lives life! By telling your stories, you can help your children to see you as a human being. They can learn to appreciate you for who you are, and not simply as an authority figure.

I often suggest that clients keep a journal in order to record their stories. This helps people to express themselves, process things during hard times, and supports them when they have to make decisions. Keeping a journal can help you to accept and to love yourself by recording and eventually cherishing your story.

Stories are Captivating

Image-2Another good reason for using your life’s stories in parenting is that stories are captivating. They are interesting and easy to listen to and thus help to retain your child’s attention. Telling stories has always been a favorite means of communication for human beings. Lectures and sermons can be hard to follow, but when a speaker starts to tell a story the audience becomes alive. Story-telling provides you with an ace-up-the-sleeve that can help you to maintain the interest of your child.

Stories Prepare your Child for Stressful Situations

Your stories can also help to prepare your child for the future and can serve as stress inoculations. A stress inoculation is a controlled training technique where a subject is put through very intense situations, such as a hostage drama. This means that if the worst were ever to happen, they would be much more prepared, having already been exposed to similar circumstances. By sharing the events of your own life with your child, you equip them for similar moments and crises in their own life. As a result, when they encounter such experiences in their own lives, especially as  young adults, they have effectively already been there.

Stories Transmit Wisdom and Build a Worldview

Telling stories as a parent not only provides your child with a helpful glimpse of what to expect in the future, but also passes on the lessons that you have learnt in life and the wisdom that you have gained from it. In addition, stories provide your child with a way of interpreting life and help to build their worldview.

This may feel like an intimidating prospect, and perhaps this is appropriate for it has far-reaching implications. Yet human beings are designed to be mentored and it does a child little service to avoid influencing them for fear of harming them. We are all imperfect beings, but we are called to do our best. As a parent, you have a foundational role in shaping how your child interprets and reacts to  people. At the same time, you are also the one who can best assist your child in developing their own autonomy and choosing their own values and philosophies. In this, your commentary on the stories that your child has heard from others will also play a key role.

Christian Counseling Can Help You to Tell Your Stories

In the my next article I will continue this discussion by showing how telling your stories helps your child to see you as you really are, how this enables you to later become friends with your child, and how it gives your child a sense of identity and belonging. Stories help all of us to discover who we really are. Telling our stories can be deeply therapeutic and in my work as a Christian counselor I seek to enable my clients to bring their own stories to light so that they can give them a place in their lives. Christian counseling can help you to process your own stories, and a Christian counselor can also provide support as you seek to pass these stories on to your children.

To see Part 2 of this article click here.

Photos
Images from freedigitalphotos.net; Father with two children by Ambro; Friends by photostock

 



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