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A Costume For Alex

A therapeutic story to emphasise on the importance of role-playing in fostering empathy and resilience in young children.

Parents, teachers and counsellors are encouraged to engage the child in a discussion after the story session, and doodle what emotions like sadness or happiness feels like.

Once upon a time, in a bustling kindergarten classroom, there was a bright-eyed four-year-old boy named Alex. Alex was a curious and imaginative child who loved to explore the world around him. But what set Alex apart was his natural inclination towards empathy, even at his tender age.

In their kindergarten class, the teacher, Ms. Thompson, often organised activities to help the children learn about emotions and empathy. One day, she introduced the class to the concept of role-playing. She explained that role-playing meant pretending to be someone else and imagining how they might feel in different situations.

Excited by the idea, Alex eagerly volunteered to go first. With a wide grin, he dashed to the dress-up corner and began rummaging through the colourful costumes. From a pirate to a firefighter, Alex tried on different outfits, each time adopting a new character's persona.

As he donned each costume, Alex's imagination soared. He stomped around like a brave knight, pretending to slay imaginary dragons. Then, he transformed into a gentle doctor, offering soothing words to his "patients." With each role, Alex not only embraced the character's actions but also their emotions.

Ms. Thompson watched with delight as Alex delved into each role with enthusiasm. She noticed how he would pause, furrow his brows, and ponder, as he was trying to understand how each character might feel.

Soon, other children joined in, but none seemed to immerse themselves in the roles as deeply as Alex.

During one role-playing session, Alex chose to be a sad clown. Ms Thompson was keen to see how he would convey the subtle emotions of a clown who is sad.

With drooping shoulders and a painted-on frown, he shuffled around the classroom. He pretended to juggle invisible balls while letting out exaggerated sighs. His classmates observed, some giggling at his antics, but Alex remained focused. He was portraying the clown's underlying sadness through his body.

He sang to his class:

I am a clown with a funny face

I can do many tricks and make you laugh

But can you see something else?

That is the secret to how I feel inside?

He went to every friend in his class and asked them this question. But nobody had an answer.

Most of the children in the class only saw Alex the clown’s makeup and his antics. They would laugh as he pretended to slip and fall as he caught a ball or when he sang a song.

After the activity, Ms. Thompson gathered the children for a discussion. She asked how they felt during the role-playing exercise and what they learned after observing Alex as a clown. Many shared their experiences, but it was Alex who spoke with profound insight.

"I learned that everyone feels different things, even if they look happy on the outside," Alex said softly. "When I was the sad clown, I felt like I wanted someone to notice it and try to cheer me up. It made me think about how other people might feel when they're sad. It also made me think about how people can act in funny and strange ways but feel sad inside.”

Ms. Thompson beamed with pride, marvelling at Alex's empathetic wisdom. She knew that his willingness to step into others' shoes and truly understand their emotions would serve him well throughout his life.

As Alex’s classmates heard him out, they nodded in agreement. “We now realise that your face was sad all the while you were doing the tricks’’, Misha said.

“Yes, a lot of sadness was also in your eyes and the way you drooped your shoulders' ', Stuart said. “Thank you for sharing this with us Alex '', they all said in unison.

Then they all sang :

You are a clown with a funny face

You can do many tricks and make us laugh

But we can see, more than that, your eyes

That makes us feel that you are sad.

We would like to cheer you up

And Maybe just, hold your hand

And give you a tight big hug

To make you , yes make you, make you feel alright!

As the school day drew to a close, Alex skipped out of the classroom, his heart brimming with joy.

And though he was only a four-year-old boy in kindergarten, Alex was already making a difference in the world—one role-playing adventure at a time.

‘Which character he would play next? ', he wondered.


The Storyteller_Mumbai

@Shukrita Sankaran.

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1 Comment

So true...

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