The weeks and months since mid-March have been a period of adaptation. Modifying routines has looked different for different people, with some experiencing more changes and challenges than others. Luckily, we were encouraged by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to spend time outdoors, given the many physical and mental health benefits of doing so.
While cases of COVID-19 remain low, we can continue to use this time enjoy the fresh air, the shade of trees, the therapeutic feel of sand under bare feet that many of us are fortunate to have access to. It is also a fitting time to connect and share stories about our experiences over the past few months.
Reading storybooks is a fun and valuable activity, but telling our own stories helps us process our experiences. Our lives consist of stories, which help us connect to ourselves, to our loved ones and to our peers. They help us to make meaning of our surroundings.
Here, are a few tips to weave more storytelling and sharing into your family routine:
Plan for conscious nature observation.
Prior to spending time outside, plan for an activity that will invite more intentional observation of nature using the senses. Try observational scavenger hunts and sit spots. Make time after each experience or after returning home to let your child share with others what they saw, heard, smelled and felt. Sharing these experiences helps to expand our emotional and experiential vocabulary!
It is important for kids to recount their daily outdoors experiences no matter if they spent time playing freely or did more conscious observational activities. What your child shares does not have to be elaborate but making the time and providing a safe space for that sharing is vital. Your child may also enjoy retelling their story through a drawing, journal with sketches, words, poems or even leaf rubbings.
Did your child find a particular bug or bird fascinating? Turn that being into the protagonist of a story. Imagine where that being had come from and where it was headed. Imagine the community that it is part of and where it lives. Think of ways in which you are connected to that one being through others, maybe a favourite plant or tree.
Kids love inventing stories! You can also create new tales on the spot and have your child help in the process. Don’t be worried if you start a story before knowing what the ending will be.
Create new traditions at the campfire this year.
If you plan to go camping, consider creating stories based on past outdoor experiences to share around the campfire. There is something timeless about staring into a fire and taking turns telling tales and listening to others recount theirs. Oral storytelling is important in many cultures, including in the cultures of Indigenous peoples across what is now known as Vancouver Island. It can be a useful way to pass on lessons. Telling compelling stories is a skill that takes practice, though we can probably all think of someone we know who excels at it. It’s never too late to start improving.
Reflect on stories from changing times.
COVID-19 brought new experiences and, in many cases, new opportunities for how we organize our time. Did you try planting a garden on your balcony or in your yard? Perhaps you learned about aphids or caterpillars who enjoy eating your lettuce as much as you do! Did you notice more birds in your neighbourhood? Did you walk more often close to home? What effect did spending time outside have on your family this spring as compared to other years?
It’s easy to revert to old habits and routines, so take time this summer to discuss with your family the positive aspects of the past months. Remembering and reflecting on them will help both you and your children form memories of this unique time period. Reflect on experiences that would be good additions to your family routines and calendar in the coming months, or perhaps next spring, and plan accordingly.
Stories are a way to process and a way to build collective memories. They are a powerful and priceless way to bond and make sense of time and our place in it. They allow us to move forward with a sense of connection to others and to place, with deeper roots to ground us.
What stories will you tell?