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Stories have always been an effective means of teaching wellbeing skills, as Pulimeno et al (2020), succinctly explain:

‘Since ancient times, myths, legends, fables and fairytales have supported individuals to understand who they are as human beings and the world around them, allowing people to map the reality through the use of words and language.’

Stories provide children with a safe place to explore their experiences of growing up and to learn about others. Oatley (1999) refers to stories as a ‘laboratory space, that, relative to real life, is safe and can make the relations of emotions to goals and action easier to understand.’

Extending the metaphor of story as a laboratory space allows us to view children as the scientists carrying out their daily life experiments. Having stories to give examples and provide fertile research for their experiments, means that children are less likely to have the social equivalent of a bunsen burner explosion. Children have the chance to think social situations through in the ‘story laboratory’ before they have to manage them in real life. Children can place characters experiences under the microscope so they can keep a safe distance from difficult topics of discussion.

Gibbs et al (1994), clarify that:
‘stories – by reproducing fictional situations that match with children’s real problems – allow them to feel comfortable and safe in difficult circumstances, ensuring emotional security and providing healthier ways to deal with internal struggles, life adversities and stressors. Story-tales compensate what young people may lack, by presenting them positive patterns of behaviours and constructive models through the characters they could identify with.’

Another benefit of using stories to teach wellbeing skills is the opportunity it provides to embed literacy skills. By using stories to teach wellbeing skills, children are being given the opportunity to look at stories from a wide range of perspectives and are being encouraged to really utilise their comprehension skills.

When stories are used in wellbeing lessons, children have to decipher characters emotions and motivations that can be quite complex. Having a dual benefit to using stories in this way also helps teachers to justify the time that is being spent teaching wellbeing skills.

This is important because in the packed school timetable it is often a challenge for teachers to fit in time for all the subjects and when asked teachers said that although they knew teaching wellbeing skills is important, the pressure for teachers to ensure their children achieved academically meant that teaching these skills could sometimes be skipped to spend more time on academic subjects. Therefore having a joint focus on literacy helps ensure this subject is prioritised.

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