We tell a lot of stories here. I discovered the power of stories when Pumpkin was still very new and Peanut was struggling with all kinds of fears. We had the fear that animals would crawl into the mitten that Pumpkin lost while we were walking at the lake one day. We had the fear of a fox at the front door and a wolf at the back door. We had the complete and total non-participation at soccer and ballet class, which I assumed was some kind of fear at the time. With each of these, I became better and better at the stories.
Each night at bedtime, Peanut would ask for a story, and I'd make one up for her. Usually we would make the main character an animal or a little girl, dealing with the same kinds of things she had been having trouble with that day. We had a story about a fox who came to our garden to eat lettuce, and so we taught him how to grow his own garden in the woods. We had an alligator who was really worried about playing soccer, and didn't like the gym because he couldn't hear with all the echoing in the room. We had a nice family of bunnies who used a mitten as their home. We had some general stories about fun stuff too - a girl named Simone who played in the snow and then came in to have cocoa with her mom. Lots of stories about preschool...
At some point, she began to ask for particular stories, and then she began to develop the story with me. "Mama, tell me the Simone story." "Mama, tell me a story about Samantha going to school and Max's mommy picks us up." "Tell me a story about a fox." "Mama, tell me a story about Samantha playing in the sandbox all day." She'd pick things that she had either struggled with or wanted to do, and I'd start the story asking her clarifying questions along the way - "Did Samantha's mom and brother drive to school too?" "Did she play in the sandbox and the pool?".
Often, these stories have shed some light on what was a confusing mash of feelings and behaviors. You know, sometimes kids have all kinds of turmoil about stuff we just don't think twice about. Last night, Peanut was done with her diner (some food still on the plate) and went to ask her brother if she could have some of his chicken. She politely asked, he said no, and she asked again. He said no again, this time not so sweetly. I chimed in with something about him having already said no, and that she still had some food on her plate if she was hungry. She turned and with this very angry face started telling me that "You don't say anything! You don't get to read me books! I'm going to bed!" and stomped off. A few minutes later, I went into her room and she was tucked into bed with a sullen look on her face. I started to tell a story. "Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a little brother. She mostly liked him, but sometimes he really got on her nerves. One night..." When I got to the part about her being so frustrated that her mom and dad always took his side, her eyes grew big. When I got to the part about her mom coming into her room after she had stomped out of the kitchen, I got a little smile. When I got to the part about the little girl being the light of her mom's life, and that her mom was working really hard to make sure that everyone in the family gets what they need and knows they are loved, I got a hug.
A few minutes of very powerful stuff. Try it - you might be really surprised at where it leads.