Fairytale therapy: how to overcome a child's fears with fairy tales and fantasies

Biloruska Foundation - na-sajt-1-1

According to UNICEF, every second child in Ukraine has been forced to leave their home after the war started. 44% of people are separated from their families, and 844 Ukrainian schools have been destroyed or damaged. 183 children were killed, and 342 were injured.

Ukrainian children deserve to stay safe and happy and they need our help and support more than ever. We cannot stand aside from children’s problems and needs.

Parimatch Foundation’s socially important goal is to develop and implement various tools and products that will help children to cope with the consequences of war, overcome war trauma and find hope for a happy future. This is an important contribution to the nation's health and well-being.

The Foundation together with international experts is creating a guide for parents that will help to calm their toddlers down and give their sense of security back. The main tool is a fairytale.

Fairytale therapy is a method of psychological correction of a child’s personality by reading or listening to specially selected texts. The fairytale therapy idea is to create a special mental space when the child’s fantasies become similar to reality and contribute to overcoming his fears and complexes. Fairytale therapy reduces the level of anxiety, helps to overcome various fears, and enables team adaptation. A fairy tale can restrain children’s aggressiveness, and add confidence to insecure and shy children.

Vladyslava Kurinna who is a practicing psychologist, fairy-tale therapist, and co-founder of the “Support the child” project, talks about the main principles of fairy-tale therapy and gives practical advice to parents.

«A favorite toy that you can always carry with you, that doesn’t take up a single centimeter in your suitcase and can’t be lost is the same fairy tale»

Fairytale therapy as an art therapy approach

The world of fairy tales always attracts both children and adults. When confusing events occur, or we need to make a difficult choice or an important decision, we trust our subconscious and often turn to fictional stories where the main character and his tasks are fully or partially a reflection of our situation. Do you remember our childhood when each of us had a favorite fairy tale full of hidden symbols that could calm us down before going to sleep and strengthen our faith in the future? We knew that the ugly duckling would become a beautiful swan, Cinderella would get to the ball and find love, and there was no sense to cry for a broken gold egg because Ryaba chicken will lay the simple one. The relatively young method of fairytale therapy allows using fairy tales to provide psychological help and solve psychological problems more effectively.

A fairy tale is a powerful tool for a father, a writer, a psychologist, and everyone who needs its healing influence. Its meaning is perceived at two levels at the same time: the conscious one (when a person perceives a fairytale as a fictional and unreal story) and the subconscious (when the fairy tale plot and the image of the main character cling the reality and find coincidence in it).

How can fairy-tale therapy help in psycho-corrective work with children?

A fairy tale is a way of learning about the world for every kid. They explore the surrounding environment, relationships between people, and the concept of good and evil through fairy-tale images, metaphors, and symbols. That is how the moral qualities of the individual are cultivated as well as perception, imagination, etc. are developed. Fairytales help a child to find a solution to an exciting situation.

The range of problems you can solve with a fairy tale is very wide:
Age fears
Psychosomatic disorders
Difficulties in socialization
Problems with self-esteem and self-perception
Neurotic disorders: enuresis, encopresis, insomnia, etc.

What are the main principles of creating a psychotherapeutic fairytale for a child?

After identifying a problem to be corrected, an adult can write a special fairy tale for a child.

The story must be created according to a specific algorithm. First, we introduce the main character who resembles the child in appearance, a specific habit, or character trait. This character attracts a child as he is in the sphere of her interests. It can be a favorite pet for a toddler, and princesses, wizards, robots, or a multimedia character for children. The next milestone of the story is the description of the difficulties and their consequences the main character bump into, which is a complete reflection of the child’s problem (fear of the dark, enuresis, reluctance to share toys, etc.). Then the main character overcomes the proposed obstacles, and the path to getting rid of them is described in detail. The main character makes conclusions and lives a better life than before.

When writing a fairy tale, take into account the age of the child, the older the child, the more complex plot and the more detailed story have to be. But the story should be short.

If parents are not sure about their abilities in writing a therapeutic fairy tale for a child, it is better to contact a specialist who will help.

How to enhance the influence of a fairy tale? How do diversify it?

There are many ways to diversify both the simple evening reading of fairy tales before going to bed and the psychotherapeutic one.

Create your fairy tales with a child. Ask the child to make up a fairy tale about his favorite character and his adventures. This process is diagnostic. After all, a child will share his thoughts, beliefs, and anxieties through a story. You can create a completely new story or the story based on an already known one.

Continue the adventures of a famous hero, play a reverse fairy tale, when famous good characters become evil, and negative ones turn into positive ones. You can add an extra hero to a specific fairy tale (add a Ninja turtle to the tale about Ryaba chicken).

Discuss the fairy tale: the main character, his actions, the world, etc. Thus, the child learns to analyze events, express his position, and distinguish what is bad and what is good. You can also ask what conclusions the child would make if he acted in this situation.

Draw or sculpt characters and key plot scenes. This art therapy technique develops imagination and relieves the nervous system.

Staging fairy tales. This simple technique enhances the fairy tale impression. Thus, the child is immersed in the adventures and ways of solving the character’s problems.
The fairy tale should be told by a person who is significant to the child. For example, the Ukrainian military recorded more than 70 fairy tales for children about the strength of spirit and indomitability, the victory of good, and the value of love and friendship, especially for the “Support the child” Telegram channel. Thus, the child increases the meaning of the fairy tale and its truthfulness.



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