Use Metaphor to Help Extend the Child

For me, using metaphors is a bit like raising the bar for an Olympic pole-vaulter. By inching the standard higher you help the athlete reach his or her potential, whereas setting it at their current or previous level of achievement does not encourage personal extension. For this reason I prefer to introduce new ideas, information, and language on the principle that slightly higher is better than lower. I would rather pitch my story a little beyond the child's level than run the risk of talking down to the child.

Some stories in Part Two contain information that is not essential to the therapeutic message of the story but may help extend a child's knowledge. "An Act of Kindness" (Story 53) talks about gorges and black-footed wallabies. "Finding Tenderness" (Story 37) has as its main characters a pair of Australian native animals called echidnas, and explains some of their unique defensive habits, while Story 30, "I'm Not Afraid Any More," provides the listener with information about the world's biggest shark.

At times I may choose to use words a little beyond the child's level because I consider that stories are about teaching and healing. They are about expanding knowledge and information. If children can leave my room with a new word, new knowledge, or new skills, whether educational or therapeutic, they are stepping forward. If they go home and tell a parent what they learned about an echidna's methods of self-protection, they have engaged in a learning process that can be adapted and used to facilitate the movement toward their therapeutic goal.

Metaphors can thus be employed to extend the child and his or her knowledge, helping to

■ capture a child's attention,

■ stimulate the desire to learn,

■ set an expectation of learning,

■ build anticipation for what may follow,

■ avoid an up-front confrontation with the potentially stressing issue,

■ intrigue the imagination,

■ challenge with new words or knowledge, and

■ expand the child's basis of information.

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