“Covid-19 is lethal, contagious, and spreading fast.” This is the story of the moment. It is a potent and dense story and has the world stuck fast in fear.
I don’t mean to diminish this by using the word “story.” It’s simply accurate to call that headline a “story.” We all agree that we have much to learn about the virus and its virulence, but there is no denying that we are worried about it.
We all want to do something to keep our people safe. In particular, as parents, we want our children to be safe. We want them to make smart choices. We want them to wash their hands, to sneeze into their arms, to avoid touching their faces. We want them to drink water and eat their veggies. This is, of course, a tall order for a child.
But fear has it’s disadvantages: it can not only agitate and distract us, but protracted fear and stress can also impact our immune systems.
So how do we inspire our children to take smart actions without instilling fear? The answer is an old one that continues to be the most powerful and enduring option: storytelling.
Stories deliver messages better than anything. Stories deliver them elegantly and deeply and — the best part — stories can change behavior. You have seen this. You have watched your children suddenly want to do something they never wanted to do, all because they heard a story on the subject. You know this works.
So how can a story help our children with a potential pandemic? How can a story keep them from getting sick? How can it get them to become diligent and consistent in their hygiene? We in Sparkle Land believe that stories are the single most powerful parenting tool there is. We believe that a well-told story can bring transformation to any aspect of life. But in this case, for the majority of us, the primary challenge is not dealing with the virus. It is dealing with the fear.
If we tell children the right story, they will be inwardly calm and outwardly smart, whether they need to learn new habits of handwashing or navigate school closures with ease. They will know the adults around them are working to keep them safe and that they don’t need to worry.
Let’s start with stories about managing fear.
These stories are helpful for people of all ages. If you are feeling fearful, but the children in your life are not, have a listen on your own! Take care of yourself, so that you can bring calm to your people. They may soothe your nervous system and give you tools and perspectives that you can use on yourself and others. Remember, the calmer your system, the healthier your immune system.
You don’t have to discuss these stories with children! Often the stories do the work on their own. But be ready and available for when questions are asked or future conversations flower about the topics.
If you’d like to invent and tell your own stories, here are some of the primary messages we believe will benefit kids:
- Challenges happen. They can be surprising and even scary, but we can’t avoid them.
- When challenges happen, helpersstep forward. These people have experience and knowledge and know what has worked in the past. We can listen to the helpers and they will help us make smart decisions.
- There is often work that needs to be done. There is work to do in our family and work to help others. Challenges have solutions!
- We are strong, we are resilient, and we are smart — and though we might feel fear from time to time, it will not keep us from continuing to be strong, resilient, and smart. Fear is a feeling that comes and goes. But strength, resilience, and smarts stay.
I hope you find this useful for your own family and friends. Should you have any questions or suggestions, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.