Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tall Tales

During this period, a child’s stories may take on the characteristics of a tall tale. The child will claim to have accomplished an incredible feat - she rode her tricycle a million miles. If challenged, she may indignantly proclaim that it is not just a story, it is true. There is usually no harm in just acknowledging the story and letting it to at that. At times you might gently interject some reality – it may not have been a million miles on the trike, but it was farther than yesterday. This lets her know you understand her tale and that you take it for what it is worth.
Sometimes, however, your child may tell what you consider to be an outright lie. Here again, you will often need to exercise restraint. ‘‘Lie’’ is too wrong a word for the transparent fibs that small child tells. Children generally fib only to protect themselves from punishments and, since the line between fantasy and reality is so easily blurred, your child may actually believe she was not at fault. In dealing with his type of behavior, it is usually more constructive to forgo punishment and instead to talk with the child, emphasizing your appreciation for honesty. In this way you will teach her that she has little to fear in taking responsibility for her actions.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Story telling skills

Like other forms of fantasy, children’s stories reflect their experiences, fears, emotions and desires. Your tow or three year old may attempt to tell a story using phrases and short sentences, but he can only sustain it with much questioning and prompting from you.
By the age of four, your child will pick up conventional storytelling devices such as “Once upon a time and “the end,” and he may become more fluent in telling a tale. This age is the imaginative peak for children’s stories. The action is seldom bound by reality, and the story settings may be wildly exotic. You can encourage storytelling by reading to your child regularly. New characters, situations and locations from books become fuel for his own stories.
While the plots of young children’s tales often involve eating, sleeping and the appearance of a kindly figure, violence is far and away the predominant theme. You are likely to hear a great deal about struggles with monsters, children getting spanked, stolen food death, killing and crashing. Although such stories may make you rather uncomfortable, remember that they are usually a child’s way of dealing with fears or feelings of aggression. And they give you a perfect opportunity to talk through such concerns with your youngster as the two of you discuss the gorier details of the story line.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A child’s humor

Pretend play also helps in less serious matters. By finding humor in play, a child releases tension and reclaims that elusive sense of personal power. Your child probably loves to catch you making a silly mistake. For a moment, she can feel smarter than you. In the same vein, a child delights in mimicking your authoritative voice and manner. Even just acting silly herself – making mistakes on purpose, falling down or pretending to be clumsy – can allow the child to feel more in control.
Two other subjects that many children like to laugh about are sexual differences and bathroom matters. This kind of humor may drive you to distraction, but it seems to help relieve a child’s anxieties about these issues. In egging each other on to yet another toilet joke, children fin a sense of camaraderie among peers sharing the same uncertain feelings. And by finding amusement in a subject that began as a worry, the child learns a lesson in optimism.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The uses of pretend play

The most common form of childhood fantasy is pretend play. A child’s first attempts at pretending are usually simple imitation. At about 15 to 18 months, the child may “drink” from an empty cup or pretend to go to sleep. But once he is able to use symbols in his thinking, the youngster may pretend there is a cup when none exists or pretend to lay a doll down to sleep.
Between two and three years old, your child will begin to build make believe games around real experiences such as shopping trips and television conversations. At this age, children are exploring their sexual identities. If you see your child alternate between male and female roles, do not be alarmed. Many children experiment in this way to learn what sex differences mean. Beyond the age of three, the child begins to identify more strongly with the parent of the same sex and most often emulated that role.
By the age of five or six, the child is more interested in people outside the home, and you will see the role playing become more realistic and complex. Now a number of characters may take part in the same story. Police, fireman, ambulance drivers and helicopters pilots may all be called in to help in an imagined disaster.
Pretend play will often focus on your child’s awareness of his place in the world. Children have little control over their lives, yet their desire for control is great. By playing superhero, monster or wizard, your child creates a scene where he is the master. By acting the part of a school crossing guard, the child gets to tell Mom and Dad when to stop. Children crave such reversals.
Youngsters also pretend play to help them understand troubling experiences. When a new sibling arrives, for example, watch your older child’s play for clues about feelings. She may express anger and jealously by scolding or spanking a doll – or by throwing it across the room. The child probably knows that she could never treat the baby that way. But acting out a fantasy like this releases built-up tension and lets a child find out how it feels to give way to emotions. It is probably best not to interfere at such a moment. But afterward, ask the child to talk about what is bothering her, and sympathetically explain the reality of the situation if it is something – like a new baby – that cannot be changed.
Unpleasant memories and fears can sometimes be mastered through fantasy. Children who are frightened by animals or who develop a fear of doctors sometimes switch roles and pretend to be object of their fears. By assuming an active role in the drama and replaying real or imaginary scenes, the child takes control of the situation. You can encourage such play by providing the props – puppets, dolls, a toy doctor’s kit or some fanciful clothes to dress up in.