This week’s “ESC Carte Blanche” editor is Silvia!

Hi! I’m Silvia, I’m 22 years old and I’m from Spain. I joined the ESC project with Open Cultural Center in Greece driven by the perceived need for social collaboration in the world. Working here has lead me to develop even greater social awareness, has inspired me and given me the tools to be an active part in building a more inclusive and supportive reality.”

“Among the myriad of techniques that psychologists and educators offer to implement in the classroom to improve children’s well-being, storytelling or ‘Name it to Tame it’ stands out as simple yet astonishingly effective in our context. That’s why I feel the need to share it, with the hope of inspiring others to adopt similar approaches.”

It’s like when we read a book we really like,” told me a six-year-old student, “and we want to read it again. But, if we read another book, it teaches us something new and we still like it. So, we don’t have to feel very bad or angry.

This simple yet powerful metaphor emerged during a farewell moment when I informed the children that I was leaving as I had completed my volunteering and a new teacher was coming. The girl found in the act of reading a book a comforting analogy for the transition and change they were experiencing at that moment. The ability to make this analogy helped her manage her emotions and integrate them with the rational part of the brain.

In our pursuit of nurturing emotional resilience in children, we turn to the insights of Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, the executive director of the Mindsight Institute, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center and professor of psychiatry at UCLA, regarding the structure and functions of the brain. Dr. Siegel’s work sheds light on the dominance of the right hemisphere in little children, where emotions and creativity often hold sway. While the right hemisphere dominates in emotional processing and autobiographical memories, our aim is to connect it with the left hemisphere, which is responsible for logical reasoning, language, and making sense of these feelings and recollections. Healing from a difficult experience emerges when the left side works with the right to tell our life stories.  When children learn to pay attention to and share their own stories, they can respond in healthy ways to everything from a scraped elbow to a major loss or trauma. The two hemispheres communicate through a bridge called the corpus callosum, allowing for a harmonious integration of rationality and emotionality. By fostering connections between these two hemispheres, we empower children to give voice to their emotions, understand them within a logical framework, and develop effective coping strategies. 

Through storytelling, we provide a tool for children to integrate their emotional experiences with language and reasoning, ultimately promoting emotional resilience and well-being. When children encounter distressing or frightening situations, it often triggers overwhelming emotions and physical sensations that primarily engage the right hemisphere of the brain. However, we can facilitate the involvement of the left hemisphere to aid children in comprehending these experiences. A powerful method to achieve this integration is through storytelling, where we guide children in revisiting and reconstructing the narrative of their distressing or painful encounters.

Why is retelling the story so effective? We help bridge the left and right hemispheres of the brain so they can make sense of what has happened. Children engage their left hemisphere by putting the details in order and expressing the experience in words, and then they engage their right hemisphere by revisiting the emotions they felt. By naming their fears and emotions, we empower them to master them.

In our classes, OCC teachers facilitate this type of conversation strategically, seizing moments when both they and we are in good spirits, and preferably while they are busy participating in other activities like building something or playing cards, rather than sitting across from them and asking them to open up.

In our capacity as educators, we endeavor to serve as guiding facilitators, empowering students to engage their left hemisphere faculties to comprehend and categorize the unfolding events. This entails imparting structure and terminology to the overwhelming sensations typically associated with right-brain processes. A coherent narrative, essential for comprehension, necessitates the left hemisphere’s utilization of language and logic. Scientifically, this elucidates the efficacy of journaling and verbal expression in navigating challenging experiences, as research underscores the calming effect on the emotional circuitry within the right hemisphere upon assigning names or labels to emotions. Contrary to the misconception that avoiding discussions surrounding distressing incidents might alleviate children’s pain or prevent exacerbation, empirical evidence indicates that narrative disclosure often serves as a crucial catalyst for understanding and eventual emotional resolution. The innate human impulse to comprehend the causality of events propels incessant attempts by the brain to contextualize experiences until coherence is attained. As educators, we play a pivotal role in nurturing this cognitive process through the art of storytelling.

The art of storytelling serves not only as a means of expression but also as a catalyst for emotional growth and inner strength. By articulating their experiences through tales, children gain clarity and perspective, transforming overwhelming emotions into manageable narratives. They learn to name and master their fears, laying the groundwork for healthy emotional development.

As children grow, the skills honed through storytelling remain invaluable, extending far beyond their early years. This storytelling process will probably become a natural way for them to deal with difficult situations, giving them a powerful tool for dealing with adversity into adulthood and throughout their life.

Through the practice of storytelling, children develop not only the capacity to understand and process their own emotions but also the empathy to connect with others and support them through their journeys. These skills lay a foundation for lifelong emotional well-being and resilience, empowering children to navigate the twists and turns of life with empathy and fortitude.

Our volunteering program is funded by the European Union through the European Solidarity Corps!

The “ESC Carte Blanche ” is a section where we give the mic to our European Solidarity Corps volunteers and give them the creative freedom to write a piece about a topic of their interest linked to migration. 


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