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Nalini Joseph: Let your child’s imagination run wild

By Nalini Joseph

While you’re yelling, “Hey get off the Nintendo Switch and get your homework done,” are you also thinking, “He’s sure got great hand-eye coordination while he’s playing these video games – he’s really a champ”?  

Our kids live in this world of continuous stimulus and input: homework, sports, television and video games. A couple of weeks ago in my Salisbury Post column, I wrote about practicing a “mindful minute” with your child — a minute or so of quiet and mind decluttering at least once a day or, better yet, several times a day to help focus your child’s overstimulated brain with the barrage of immediate input that we, as parents, either keep dumping on them or allow others to dump on them.

Nalini Joseph

This week, I want parents to focus on the sheer power of imagination, dreaming and silence. Let’s start by defining imagination. Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. Read that definition again. What is it really saying? 

The way I understand it, imagination happens when there is an absence of external stimuli stemming from our five senses. 

Imagination is cognitive — acquisition of knowledge and understanding through thought. Is it any wonder that Albert Einstein used “thought experiments” and famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world”? Einstein developed his theory of general relativity in part by using his imagination through his thought experiments — for example, riding on a beam of light. The math came later. As a matter of fact, he could not do all the math by himself and used the help of a Dutch physicist, Henrik Lorentz. 

In children, imagination takes the form of fantasy and dreams. Our rational world has tended to make daydreaming a “bad thing.” We tend to push aside our children’s natural tendencies to dream and fantasize and we push them into the “real world.” What we are unwittingly doing is stifling the growth and stimulation of the neocortex and thalamus of their brains – the parts of the brain where childhood memories are stored and where memories of love shared with mom, dad and family are kept. These memories resurface when we are adults; it is these memories that keep the bonds of love between parents and children intact. 

Indulge your child when they fantasize and dream, especially when they dream of their future — a world with fantastical gadgets and strange creatures. This may pay big dividends in the future for them, you and maybe the world at large. Maybe it’s time we hear what Mr. Bill Gates — arguably one of the finest human beings of the 20th and early 21st century and possibly (along with Steve Jobs) the greatest change maker since the person who invented the wheel — says, “I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid.”  

Encourage your child to spend some time just looking out the window and staring into the backyard.  They are appreciating nature by listening to the birds and the leaves swirling in the wind. Encourage observing and imagining in silence. Teach your child the immense value of silence. Practice it yourself; your child will learn from you. As they grow older and hard times befall them, perhaps instead of turning to alcohol and drugs, they will take refuge in silence, observation and imagination as did Blaise Pascal who notably said, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit silently in a quiet room”.

In preparing your child for and ushering them onto a path of greatness, one of the greatest services you can do as a parent is to pull them away from all the craziness and rush of the everyday madness of life. 

Provide them with a space where they can “breathe” in silence, which will help them run with their capacity for imagination, cognitive thought and powers of observation. Who knows? You may be raising the next Steve Jobs who advised that, “If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is … it does calm and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things.”

Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who also serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at nalinijones1@hotmail.com.

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