As a parent of four, now adult, children, some of the most fun times we had together, was creating stories and acting them out. My children were of all different levels and ability academically. I had to be creative in my approach with each one to suit their own level and needs. My eldest had a natural flair for writing and enjoyed the peace and quiet of sitting and writing with pen and paper, and reading it back to me. My second was more of a ‘hands on’ type child, an engineer today, so we created comic book styles, with lots of colour and pictures. My third was quiet, thoughtful and practical so to encourage his creative side I had to make it fun, so many of his stories we performed afterwards with lots of drama and funny voices. My youngest was a talker and loved to talk about her stories, so she talked I wrote, and oh boy could she talk a story! We later discovered she had dyslexia, but that did not stop her from creating and inventing stories.
There are different approaches to starting this with your child. Firstly ask yourself, ‘What is my child like?’, ‘Are they a talker?’, ‘Are they quiet?’, ‘Are they actors?’ Be led by their own unique personality. Creative writing does not have to be all about the writing, that part you can do for them. Focus on the creative side and focus on the benefits to your child when they are encouraged and supported to write or tell a story. Any positive fun time spent with your child is of benefit to your relationship, especially in our world of digital distractions. Making time to stop, sit, and write with your child, through pictures, writing or just talking, offers a safe place for a child to develop their language and vocabulary skills. Writing develops a curious mind, developing intellectual skills, teaching a child to be calm and thoughtful in the moment. It provides a space for your child to explore and express their own feelings, to explore their own imagination, and provides a safe space to dream, invent and wonder, a skill that can only enrich their lives. It is an insightful activity for you, as their parent, to see how your child thinks, dreams and feels.
As parents, we want our children to wonder about the world around them. Stories offer opportunity to build the skill of problem solving, to have empathy for others, building their own characters, having adventures and using their imagination. Then, the best time arrives, when you have to act out their story, and trust me when I say, ‘dance like no one’s watching’, forget your inhibitions and perform your soul out, because those are the memories you want to build, the memory of laughter, the memory of togetherness, the fun in parenting.
Top Tips for Putting Limits on Screen Time
We know that spending too much time in front of screens can have negative consequences for both child development and family relationships. Below are some tips to help you limit the time the whole family spends in front of a screen, which will free up lots of time for you to spend together.
- Develop and agree solutions with the whole family. Let your child know the impact of too much screen time in an age appropriate way
- Once agreed, write it down your agreement and put it in a place everyone can see.
- Plan a fun, family activity if the agreement is respected for a week/month. Refer to agreement when necessary
- Agree consequence if the agreements isn’t respected. E.g the phone is put away if it was used outside of agreed times
- Create no screen times in agreement with all family members. This applies to all members of the family (yes, mammy and daddy too) Try to see if you can last a whole weekend without device
- Create special family time (a meal, game night, a walk in the forest) where you focus on one another
- Ask your child to show you what Snapchat is about; ask them to show you their favourite Youtube clips. Try and understand their world by being in it.
This article was written by Anna Gardiner McInerney, Family Support Workers with Barnardos and a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.