Have you ever wondered why children are so attracted to fairy tales? Bruno Bettelheim, a psychologist well known for his work with emotionally disturbed children, observes that children use fairy tales to help develop their daydreaming skills. In his article, The Struggle for Meaning, he suggests, to find meaning in life and stability.
Bettelheim wrote, “One must develop one’s inner resources, so that one’s emotions, imagination, and intellect mutually support and enrich one another.” If you worry that your child daydreams or reads fairy tales too much, keep reading to learn about the benefits.
The Many Benefits of Daydreaming and Fairy Tales
Most people consider daydreaming to be a waste of time, so they discourage their children from doing it. However, Dr. Franz Riklin, the first secretary of the International Psychoanalytic Association, in his article, Wishfulfillment and Symbolism in Fairy Tales, he speculates that the imagination is a form of human expression.
Whenever a person is disappointed in life, they can fix the disappointment through the stories he spins in his head. Riklin says, “The poet, whose longings reality can not still, creates for himself, quite unconsciously, in phantasy, what life has denied to him.”
Daydreaming is especially beneficial to children. Because of their incompetence with grown-up language and the inability to express themselves, they daydream to settle their “unconscious.” But, what is the unconscious? Keep reading to learn more.
Understanding Your Child’s Unconscious
According to Sigmund Freud, the famous psychologist who founded the field of psychoanalysis, the unconscious is a storage room for any thought or feeling your mind doesn’t want you to have. So, unless you draw out the thought or feeling yourself, your mind will hold it captive in your unconscious. In fact, it will never surface on its own.
In Freud’s, Some Remarks on the Concept of the Unconscious as Used in Psychoanalysis, he refers to this phenomenon as the mind’s “defense’ activity.” However, just because you keep your unconscious material out of reach, that doesn’t make it any less real. You have probably experienced the feeling when an unconscious thought is there, but you can’t describe or understand it.
Perhaps your mind protects you from feeling the impact of a strong negative feeling. However, you can still sense its presence. And that can leave most people feeling unsettled. And children are in a constant state of this unsettled feeling as they try to make sense of the confusing world around them. Also, they have an even harder time than adults drawing out the unconscious material and putting a label on them.
This is problematic because until a child can address whatever is going on in his unconscious, they will never settle in their mind. Any strong feeling they can’t address, they just bury. And they grow stronger, so without an outlet, they can explode. And this is where a child’s imagination brings out those feelings and thoughts, so they can address them.
The Three Benefits of Fairy Tales and Daydreaming for Children
- Daydreaming is a tool that brings inexpressible feelings into a literal, tangible form where the child can handle them. A child can slay the evil and injustice like a dragon. They can ease loneliness and disappointment through the empathy and sympathy of the hero. Even if not in such obvious terms, a daydream is a blank canvas for a child to paint, write, and dramatize anything. And that helps them address their problems and relieve their burdened minds.
- Fairy tales are a unique type of literature that speaks to a child in simple, honest terms. A child can trust a fairy tale because it speaks to their problems. They don’t try to cover up or downplay the problems like many other stories and movies that seem to sing “Kumbaya,” And they also provide encouragement and hope for overcoming those problems. Fairy tales are exciting materials that enable the child can weave their daydreams.
- Facing a problem in a daydream encourages children to take initiative in their own lives. A child needs to take initiative, but they need the incentive to do so. And hope is a strong incentive. Bettelheim says, “Our positive feelings give us the strength to develop our rationality; only hope for the future can sustain us in the adversities we unavoidably encounter.” Fairy tales provide both hope and help for daydreaming.
So, here’s a little piece of priceless parenting advice: Make sure your kids get a good dose of fairy tales. But remember, this is not to encourage excessive daydreaming. However, moderate daydreaming can be healthy for a child. And fairy tales may be more of a helpful tool in child development than most people realize.