The POWER of a Story: Talk to teens and preteens through stories & images

Your fifteen year old daughter has just been invited to a party – her first party. You don’t want to say no. You know she could have a lot of fun and potentially learn a great deal, but you are also fearful. You know what can, and does, happen…

You want to assess how your daughter feels about drugs and what she would do if she was tempted to use them at the party.

You want to build the relationship with her because you haven’t connected with her lately and she is giving you ‘attitude’ about going.

You also want to close the gap between yourself and your partner because he doesn’t have the same fears about the party as you do.

You want to deliver a message to her about important safe sex practices because you know that things “can happen” at parties, especially if she drinks etc.

At the end of the day, all you want is for her to be safe and happy – to flourish.

So how do you achieve all this? How do you help your son’/daughter to learn, to keep them safe (without conflict), whilst at the same time helping yourself and others? You harness the power of stories. You use the most powerful tool we have to influence human behaviour. You tell them a story.

Talk to your daughter, through oral, written (including pictures and diagrams) or digital stories and images. The more emotion the story and image provokes, the more visual it is, generally the better.

Use whatever stories and images are available to you. As a parent of teens and preteens, you will need to develop a toolkit of resources (called Story Image Tools) that can help you. Your parenting methods need to change. Your daughter is no longer the little girl running around in a pink tutu thinking Mummy is the most important person in the world. Now you must accept that she is growing up … Now you must become a master storyteller.

Use magazine articles of girls who have had their drinks ‘spiked’, ask your friends’ daughters to tell your daughter their positive (as well as negative) experiences. That is, ask them to share their ‘’party stories”. Find a YouTube video clip to show your daughter the devastating consequences of drug use or underage sex, as well as the fun and social skills she can learn.

Don’t just tell or show her the story. Talk to your teen or preteen through the story. Read, tell or watch the story when they are calm and relaxed. Stop the story at regular intervals to reflect on it. Use the story to build an image in h