EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 30, 2014

Grandpa's stories present important learning opportunities

Dear Doctor,

I am grandmother to three wonderful grandchildren. They are still young, all three below eight years of age. They adore their grandfather who does things with them and tells them endless stories and tales, half of them not true. I tell him he should not be telling them about his life. They have their own, and he should not bore them with his stories and tales.

No Listener

Dear Listener,

Sorry, but I cannot agree with you. If Grandpa’s “stories and tales” are appropriate for younger ears, then I say spin on with the yarns! In fact, I happen to think story telling is a great tool in psychotherapy. Let me share why.

All life is a story. Every one of us is a hero in his or her own tale and adventure. What we learn from stories is the stuff of the journey we call life. Myths are collections of frequently lived challenges. All myths have heroes who go through challenges, learn secrets and meet up with wizards. The late Joseph Campbell captured this well in his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” We learn from those who have gone before.

Let me share with you and Grandpa some things I have learned and use frequently in my work with young people.

1. Make the stories appropriate and to the point you are trying to make.

2. Do not bore. Keep them reasonably short.

3. Have a main idea, often a moral lesson or strategy for living life.

4. Be self deprecating, if possible. We are all ridiculous at times, so teach that it is not the end of the world.

5. Use lots of humor.

6. Try not to repeat a tale or story.

Did I ever tell you about.......oh, sorry.


Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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