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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Allow Your Children to Have Dreams and Use Their Imagination

Whenever people tell me that they were scolded as children for being "dreamers," having their "heads in the clouds," and using their imagination, I feel my heart sinking.  I wish more parents understood the value of allowing their children to have dreams and use their imagination.

Allow Your Children to Have Dreams and Use Their Imagination
The Imaginary World of Books
I've mentioned in an earlier blog post that when I was six or seven years old, my dream was to be a writer.  I think this dream developed when I discovered books.  I loved to read.  I loved being able to immerse myself in the imaginary world of the characters in the stories.

My mother was a big proponent of reading.  She began taking me to the public library at least once a week before I started elementary school.  The library, with all its many books, was a magical place to me.  Before I started school, we would go to the library and pick out books.  Then, we would go to the park and she would read to me while I looked wide-eyed at the pictures.

More than anything, when I began school, I wanted to learn to read so I could enter into these imaginary worlds on my own.  There were so many books in the children's section of the library, and I wanted to read all of them.  I was fortunate to have a wonderful first grade teacher, Mrs. Kurtz, who encouraged my interest and gave me books that were a few grade levels above me.

The Imaginary World of Books
Although my mother was happy that I loved to read, she was uncomfortable with the idea that I wanted to be a writer. She never told me that I couldn't become a writer, but she thought this was very impractical and she worried that I wouldn't be able to support myself as a writer.  When she told my pediatrician that I wanted to be a writer, not only did he not discourage me, but he gave me lots of writing pads, pens, a thesaurus and a dictionary.  He told me that these were the writers' "tools."   He encouraged me to write to my heart's content, and I was delighted.

Book:  Heidi
These "tools" took on an almost magical quality.  I felt very special and grown up, and I used them to write plays that my cousins and I put on in my grandmother's backyard.  In some ways, this was an act of defiance because I knew my mother didn't want me to be a writer.  But no one stopped me or told me not to do it.  Although they were very respectful and attentive at our performances, I think my relatives were amused by it all.  For their 10 cents admission charge to the show, they saw a play (usually a mystery), and afterwards, we entertained the adults by singing popular songs.

The Beatles and My Imaginary World
When I was 12, I discovered the Beatles during their first visit to the US.  I believe their arrival in the US was significant for our country, following our national mourning for President Kennedy.  It took the country out of our doldrums.

The Beatles
It was also very significant for me as a child.  Two years before, my father died suddenly and my world, as I had known it until then, changed forever.  When my friends and I became Beatle fans, like millions of other fans, we fantasized ourselves with our favorite Beatle (my favorite was Paul McCartney).

Paul McCartney
During the seventh grade, two of my close friends and I each wrote stories about our lives with the Beatles.  Each one of us wrote about what it would be like to be engaged to our favorite Beatle.  As children often do, we entered into that transitional world between imagination and "ordinary reality" in our writing.

Each day, we would come in to class and during break, we would read excerpts from our writing to each other about our adventures with the Beatles.  Sometimes, we read our writing to our teachers, who encouraged us.

New York World's Fair - Flushing, Queens
During the New York World's Fair in Flushing, Queens, my young friends and I pretended that we were from Liverpool.  They were giving out buttons with the names of people's country of origin, and we were thrilled to each get a button that said "Great Britain."  I don't think we fooled anyone with our fake accents, but the adults went along with us.

New York World's Fair - Flushing, Queens
Fortunately, throughout that time, no one told us to stop day dreaming or to get our heads "out of the clouds."  We were allowed to use our imagination and have fun with it.  We were allowed to play with ideas and different roles.  We were too young to appreciate this then.  But I can look back now and see how crucial it was for my emotional development and well being at that time.

Allowing Children to Use Their Imagination is an Important Part of Their Development
Being allowed to day dream and use my imagination as a child never interfered with my school work, as many parents might fear.  I continued to get good grades.  And, if anything, it enabled me to develop a curiosity about and openness to people and places that were not part of my immediate world.  It also allowed me to have a sense of wonder and hope about my world in the future.

Isn't this what we want for our children?  If so, let's encourage them to play, dream, imagine and flourish.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call meat (212) 726-1006.




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