One thing that can often bring Pagan Parents a bit undone is the belief by the wider community that beings like Fairies and Elves and Witches are figments of FairyTales and do not really exist.
The only way to really address this with children is to be really clear throughout their whole entire upbringing that it is quite okay for people to believe whatever they wish and that we should be very supportive of those who have differing beliefs to ours. This is always qualified by the important distinction that this holds true as long as their belief is not causing anyone any actual harm.
Now firstly, there are a number of things that can impact on just how strong an imagination any one child has these can be family culture, how and what they are read, what they are exposed to on television, what their underlying personality is, whether there are any other factors like learning difficulties or disabilities and sometimes even their gender.
The argument for nature and nurture states that if you immerse your child in enough cultural pursuits they will absorb at least some but the interest has to be there. How do we increase a childs interest then? By making something fun Fun things are so much easier to get involved in for everyone arent they? So we dance to the radio and they join in . We draw and paint with them and they quickly start to splash the colour on . We roll out the playdough and they start to build monsters and weird random flower shapes that are apparently the dog .. and as I discussed in my previous article we read to them . Or make a story up out of our heads.
Now there is an argument that my children are all a bit weird because I well and truly am Isnt that such a mean thing to say? Well that depends on who you ask.
If you ask my 15 year old nearly 16 year old daughter she will say thankyou she embraces her weirdness. I have raised her to have a creative and imaginative mind. This provides children with a strong ability to problem solve and deal with boredom as well as being an important part of living in balance. It also allows them some freedom to be unique and individual while giving them a buffer from bullying.
Now for as long as I can remember my daughter has had a friend. This friend is a very special friend the invisible kind to be honest. Not everyone is blessed with such a treasure thats for sure but her best bud Fred has got her through a lot of lonely times and socially awkward moments, assisted by the fact that she can laugh at herself on occasion. He conveniently can be blamed for everything, including tripping her over when she stumbles down a step.
Now you may think this sounds a little juvenile however I would beg to differ. I think it shows a healthy balance in a teenager that they can still hold on to a piece of their inner child. They are always in so much of a rush to grow up and be free. We need to empower them to feel free when they are younger. This does not mean we do not provide boundaries and restrictions on them but the rules they must live by as a member of the family and household, if fair and relevant to their maturity level, provide them with a source of freedom. If they know that all they need do is meet certain markers to gain what they want, with obvious qualification here that it must be something good for them in some way, then they have less to rebel against and a much more secure sense of freedom.
So how can we foster imagination? Well just recently I have found a few really successful ways for younger children. My Daughter is at Kindy and they have something called a literacy pack. These are wonderful treasures. They include a story, all the little props and characters and an instruction sheet. Some of the packs though are called Story Boxes. These are a pretty box with about 8-10 random objcts and the child with the person reading to them construct a story. There was a blank book too where you could record the story. Some of the other childrens stories really made me think about how creative children are at such a young age.
An example of the contents of a box:
A Rainbow coloured fish
The point is they have random bits that are unconnected and out of that construct a story with no pressure and no boundaries. How much more freedom can the imagination have?
As they grow we must continue to allow their imagination to expand. They need access to thing which assist this process Computers allow them to write and produce stories and works of art and not just chat to their friends. Never let it be said though that there is no value in a couple of pieces of paper and a pack of colour pencils.
There are many social networks online now and if you look at some of the members they have highly creative and innovative sites some maybe a little loud but they are unique. There are also many young people writing and producing their own music and publicising it through the Internet. The internet is also a medium for publishing poetry, stories and art.
But in between the story box and the computer box there are lots of everyday experiences, random story telling and creative moments when a box is all of a sudden a V8 Super car and the dolly has Duck pox and needs to be nursed back to health by being forced to consume the dry pasta that is the medicine.
And then there are the musical Instruments made out of pasta and plastic bottles or rice in a cereal box or bottle caps nailed to a piece of wood, Fairy wings and Princess Crowns and Magicians Capes that create a real and powerful world for their imaginations. One thing though I feel that is very important to remember is that you should never expect them to grow out of that phase because they may not and that is a good thing if done in moderation as only balanced and fully functioning adults maintain that little bit of their childhood that makes life still a wonder to them and every day a special and potentially wonderful experience.
Fundamentally though it is important to remember that our children, by choosing to walk an alternative path to the norm are exposed a bit to critique. However if we raise them to be strong, balanced and mature enough to laugh in the face of adversity, tough it out when the going gets tough and stand firm to their own sense of self they can achieve anything they set their minds to and wouldnt the world be such an excellent place to live?
An organization that I am happy to support is Autism SA. I have many family members and friends who have Autism spectrum disorders and other such disorders and when I found out about this event I though how completely appropriate. Click on the link and register if you are in Australia as it is happening all round the country.
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