Boosting you Child’s Social Skills: How Photographs can Help
Photographs have a way of capturing important moments and letting them live forever.
They have stories to tell and feelings are embedded in them. That’s why many people use something called “therapeutic photography” as a bridge to connect with their thoughts, memories and feelings.
The wonderful thing about having young children in your life and a camera in your hand is that it’s relatively easy to take a wide range of pictures and put them together in the form of a book for our children to touch, handle and treasure – so that it can become a window into their lives and eventually a gateway into their hearts.
How to create a personalised picture book for each child.
1. Take photographs of your child’s daily routines, some of his favourite things, familiar places and all of the important people in his life. Aim to create an overview of your child’s life. When you focus on routines, think about chores, fun activities and self-care activities, like when your child brushes his teeth, eats breakfast, arrives at preschool, plays with his siblings and tidies up his room. Also, try to photograph him in different rooms of the house doing the things that he typically does along with different people who are important to him.
2. Then, using your computer, put together A4-size pages where you have one picture per page and a caption beneath each. There’s no need for a storyline. It’s all about the pictures. When you write the text, stick to basic information about every picture, for example: ‘Peter is getting dressed’ or ‘Peter and Rosie are watering the flowers’. Don’t write anything about why your child or anybody else in the book is doing something or anything about what anyone is thinking or feeling. It will be your child’s job to give that information.
3. Print the pages and insert them into a Flip File®, or have them printed onto photo-quality paper and bound at a local printing shop.
Use the book to help him discover his place in the world.
Start by encouraging your child to explore the book and share his thoughts. Read the text for him when he’s interested, but don’t be rigid about reading it from front to back like a typical book.
Ask simple questions and point to obvious things.
At times, simply sit quietly, stare at a picture with your child, and ask: “So, what do you see?” Wait and listen.
Sooner or later, maybe after quite a number of readings, he will open up and share thoughts and feelings about what he sees on those pages. This is your opportunity to remain quiet and listen.
Don’t judge, teach or direct. Leave that for another time and place. Instead, focus on enjoying and celebrating your child’s willingness to share his impressions and explore his feelings about the details of his life. Learning to do this is an important social milestone.
Also, read the books with two siblings at a time.
Researchers say that children whose parents talk to them about thoughts and feelings develop more empathy and better social skills. That’s a great reason to encourage your children to talk to each other about what they see happening in each others’ lives as portrayed on the pages of their books. The experience will foster a deeper understanding and a stronger connection between them.
Observe the differences between a three- and a six-year-old child.
As you listen to children of different ages talk about their lives, be on the lookout for something interesting: There’s an important development that takes place after a child’s fourth birthday, when they typically discover that people may have different perspectives and, since people may view things differently, they may misunderstand each other.
In other words, a three-year-old is likely to express only his own views when he looks at his book of photographs, while older children would find it much easier to imagine what other people in the pictures may be feeling and thinking.
Parents who know better do better.
In summary, photographs tell stories and they bind us together. They demonstrate our connection with the world we live in and our relationship to one another because they say: “You are loved. You come from somewhere. You belong somewhere and you are important to us.”
Ultimately, these books boost social skills because they help children discover their place in the world whilst demonstrating that every single one of us has his or her own special story to tell and unique perspective to share.
Until next time!
Lizette van Huyssteen