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The Science Behind Weaverbird Stories

Launched in October 2019 and aimed at helping children between 3 and 9 years, the goal of Weaverbirds personalised stories is to provide a starting point for creating a coherent narrative of a young person’s journey through some of the difficult aspects of life. The stories place the child in the context of their family, help them sequence and process events, and to recognise, name and validate their emotional response to these experiences.

A Weaverbirds story should not take the place of therapy or provide an all-encompassing solution to processing an emotional topic. The stories provide a clear, straight-forward starting point.

Why storytelling?

Storytelling as a means of educating and socialising future generations has been a central part of the world’s oldest civilisation, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for tens of thousands of years and continues to this day.

There is an abundance of research and literature which champions the many benefits of reading stories with children.

Working through our own experiences and emotional responses to them, can help us develop and grow. In Siegel’s research (The Whole Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson, 2012) he explains that integrating left brain (logical language based sequences) and right brain (emotional) information can help reduce neural activity in the brain, indicating that our brain has effectively been ‘soothed’ by this process of integration. In explaining this he talks of the ‘name it, to tame it’ hypothesis, meaning that if we are able to help our young person accurately name the distressing emotion that they are feeling, this activity in itself typically serves to reduce the intensity of the emotion.

Why work to validate a child’s emotional response?

In both child and adult research, there is good evidence to suggest that validating a person’s emotional response is both powerful and beneficial, and in contrast repeatedly dismissing or invalidating a child’s emotional response can be damaging (eg. The Power of Validation, Hall & Cook 2011, Linehan, 1993). This can be difficult to do as an adult as at times it is hard to relate to the seemingly trivial things that are sometimes so distressing for a young child.

Children learn from the adults around them how to manage their emotional responses. It is normal and natural that a young person would see some level of family members’ distress after a traumatic event and it is also equally important that as an adult we use other avenues (family, friends, counsellors, telephone counselling) for support, rather than our child.

What are some other ways I can do this besides the Weaverbirds story?

There are many ways to help a child process and integrate their story such as through counselling, verbal story-telling or journaling (eg. Kalantari, Yule, Dyregrov, Neshat Doost, & Ahmadi, 2012). Weaverbirds stories offer another starting point. To further develop these skills for yourself and your child a number of resources and references for further reading are provided on the Weaverbirds website.

Does our family need help from a professional (GP, Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychiatrist)?

It is important to take the cue from your child as to whether they would like to create or read their Weaverbirds story. If they are not receptive with a small amount of encouragement, you make like to try again another day. If you are unsure or concerned about your child please seek professional help. Often schools, family friends, or GPs are able to recommend a Child Psychologist in your local area, otherwise you can contact a relevant professional body such as the Australian Psychological Society.

When to access more help?

  • If your child’s response seems out of proportion to the situation, or if their struggles seem to be continuing for a long time without improvement.
  • If you are concerned about the safety of your child and they are talking of hurting themselves or wanting to die.
  • Other signs it may be time to seek professional help include symptoms of anxiety or depression which may be seen as:
    • Hopelessness and ongoing social isolation or withdrawal
    • Aggressive, irritable or acting out behaviour
    • Regression (not being able to do skills previously mastered)
    • Significant distress on separation from caregivers
    • Crying more than usual
  • Just as your child may be suffering, you may be suffering too. If you are finding it difficult to cope with the daily demands of life, it is important that you seek help so you can be the best possible resource for your child.


Disclaimer

Books provided by Weaverbirds Pty Ltd are meant to be used as an aid and are not intended to provide medical advice. The information provided on Weaverbirds Pty Ltd website is not a substitute for professional advice or care by a qualified practitioner. If you are concerned about the health and wellbeing of yourself or any children in your care, you should always consult an appropriate healthcare professional. Please visit Australian Psychology Association, Kids Helpline or Lifeline for further information.

We have an experienced child psychologist in our nest creating activities to help make your conversations easier and more successful.


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