That’s why series like Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries, and Janet Evanovich’s number books, are so popular. Each new volume follows a familiar format that allows readers to interpret new story lines by referring back to earlier ones. It’s the repetition that makes them work.
Like good novels, children’s personal narratives need a solid, repetitive structure. Repetition binds their story together. It places it within a network of relationships that are predictable and safe.
Identifying with family stories helps children learn who they are, and to whom they belong. New experiences are evaluated through the lens of time shared together. Meaning is constructed within the context of what has gone before.
Trauma shreds the fabric of a child’s family story. It’s as though he’s been ripped from its pages.
Alone in the world, traumatized children lack a context, a pattern they can fall back on. Their narratives are interrupted, leaving them vulnerable and disconnected.
Repairing the damage is serious business. It requires adults to intentionally create opportunities for children to connect with themselves and those around them.
With enough repetition, these “episodes of belonging” help children rework the tragedy of their past – an important step in writing the on-going story of their lives.
Here are some ideas for creating “episodes of belonging”:
Display pictures of children with friends and family members.
Write children “thank you” notes, acknowledging something special you noticed them doing for someone else.
Take time every day to tell children how much you like them and enjoy being around them.
Learn as much as you can about children’s personal preferences.
Make a list of children’s favorite things to do. Get in the habit of doing some of these together.
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