How to

Helping children cope by using the power of stories

Have you thought how stories can offer a way of supporting children through some of life’s challenges? As they grow, children are faced with a variety of situations. Some of these may be exciting, like making new friends. But very often they can be difficult and children may need your help.

There are many wonderful stories about the potentially tough situations and dilemmas – like starting school, separation, illness, death, divorce, prejudice and bullying – that children may face. Discovering characters in stories that share similar experiences to them, helps children feel less alone and may also help them to better understand and cope with a challenging situation. Many children find it difficult to identify and communicate how they are feeling. Reading stories can help them to understand themselves better and give you all a great starting point for discussion.

Here are some ideas on how to use books and stories to help your children cope with life’s challenges:

  • Find a story that you like with a character that has to deal with the issues that your child is facing or that might interest him or her. Make sure that the book is at the right level to interest your child. Ask a librarian, bookshop assistant, teacher, counsellor or another parent to help you, or look on the Internet for suitable stories.
  • Read and get to know the story yourself before sharing it with your child or a group of children.
  • Think aloud and ask open-ended questions about the story during and after reading. Open-ended questions have no right or wrong answers and they encourage children to reflect, explore and talk about their personal concerns, emotions or ideas. Here are some examples to try:
  1. How would you feel if …?
  2. If I were him, I wonder what I’d do…
  3. I wonder why she said/did that…
  4. What do you think is going to happen next?
  5. What would you do if …?
  6. What do you do when …?
 
  • Find other ways related to the story for children to continue to explore their thoughts and feelings. For example: retelling and/or acting the story, drawing a picture about it, telling and acting out your own story, creating a puppet show or writing to one of the story characters.

 Visit our recommended reads section for a list of titles exploring illness, loss and grief.