How To Nurture Our Child's Imagination & Empathy
Mommy is in the kitchen when she hears Hao call for her fearfully. She rushes to him in the living room and sees him pointing to the window.
'Mommy, it's a butterfly. It flies and lands on my hand. It's trying to attack me,' blurts out Hao.
Mommy scoops him up and tells him soothingly, 'It's a moth. Look, the colours are duller. We don't know if it's trying to attack you when it lands on you. Shall we find out?'
Mommy carries Hao and walks closer to examine the moth resting on the window. Hao protests in mommy's arms, telling mommy he is scared.
'Don't be afraid of something you don't understand. Mommy is here with you. You know I will protect you from anything.' Mommy comforts Hao.
When they are really, really close to the moth, it flutters its wings gently.
'Look, Hao. It's a baby moth. It looks scared. I think he is missing his mommy. Maybe it is just seeking shelter in our house to hide out from the heavy rain,' says Mommy.
Hao peers at the moth. It does seem like a gentle moth.
Hao smiles at the moth. The moth flutters its wings again to say hello.
'Alright, little moth. You may stay with us until the rain stops. Then you fly back to your family,' Hao offers.
With that, he wriggles out of Mommy's arms, slides down her and runs back to his books.
The next morning, it is a sunny day.
Hao runs to the window to find the moth. He is sad to see that the moth is gone. But he remembers what Mommy says and realises the moth must have returned to its family. With a beam on his face, he runs to find Mommy to tell her the good news.
This story contains three messages for parents:
Firstly, our child's fear may seem trivial to us but it is very real to them. Don't be too quick to dismiss them or dish a cookie-cutter answer to them.
Take a moment to talk to our child. This is a more sustainable way to address the fear. More importantly, this sets the precedence for our child to speak to us when he is older and having bigger issues.
Secondly, personifying the moth allows our child to feel empathy towards another living creature. Positive feelings such as empathy, gratitude, confidence crowds out negative feelings such as fear, anger.
This is an important tool to impart to our child. The ability to self-manage his social-emotional health independently is far more effective than relying on external validation.
Thirdly, fuel our child's imagination. Don't let what we see now limit his imagination and shortchange our future.