Daydreaming develops creativity, boosts social adjustment, emotional intelligence and leads to better school performance – here’s how you can encourage it
by Tamsyn Bouwer
Daydreaming is a very good thing. And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Countless studies have found over the years that mind wandering is linked to higher intelligence, critical to a child’s development (as per Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point) and, as per the “father of positive daydreaming” Jerome L. Singer: it’s believed to be a natural mechanism for trying to understand complex emotions and situations that children don’t yet have a reference for. Sounds a little bit like genius to me.
This is all only worth mentioning because parents sometimes see daydreaming as negative or troubling behaviour. We’re trained to immediately worry about how children will adapt to society’s strict norms. And we’re told that daydreaming indicates ADHD, which it does not.
Daydreaming is not ADHD
There is some reason to believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might not actually even exist. Since 2012, articles have done the rounds claiming that the man who pioneered research into ADD and ADHD, American psychiatrist Dr Leon Eisenberg (now deceased), admitted that he and his team had invented the disease. The original interview this confession supposedly appeared in is in German, so quite hard to corroborate. But India’s lauded medical scientist, Professor BM Hedge, said he believed the disorder was “created” to sell drugs and medicine.
Luckily for us, internet truth-seekers Snopes.com took it upon themselves to investigate, and they found the claim that Dr Eisenberg admitted ADHD was a fictitious disease to be “partially true”. Partial, only because, while he himself said: “ADHD is a prime example of a fabricated disorder,” it is believed he meant it is not hereditary or genetic, but rather due to social or environmental factors.
Awarded American developmental psychologist and author Dr Susan Engel describes an incredible scenario in this article, where two very sporty parents were so worried about their eight-year-old daydreaming boy that they thought he had ADHD. Turns out that the child was more academically and creatively inclined, and just didn’t like sports. The boy used his daydreaming as a means to cope with what he thought was his parents’ disappointment in him for not being good at sports.
Lesson: daydreaming is not a disorder; it’s a natural mechanism in the brain. And there’s every reason to believe it is vital for development.
How to encourage your child to daydream:
1. Let them know it is okay
When you notice her staring off into space, let her be. Don’t snap her back to reality immediately, let her feel comfortable to think and explore.
2. Create time in her day
If she’s constantly rushing from home to school to doing homework to the dinner table and to the next activity, there’s just no time for daydreaming. Make time. Call it playtime or downtime, but clear the schedule a bit – and enjoy it with her if you can.
3. No electronics
Turn off the TV, forget the phones and tablets and computers, and just have some quiet time with no distractions.
4. Create a space for daydreaming
Again, electronics are distractions, so make sure the play area is quiet and peaceful. If the weather’s nice, let her play outside. A child who loves nature always daydreams a little in the garden.
5. Encourage daydreaming
If it doesn’t come naturally, kick-start the adventure by asking her to think of a place, and then imagine what she would do if she were there right now. Talk about it with her, and then leave her to continue the fantasy on her own.
6. Learn to daydream again yourself
Children learn from example, so if you use your imagination and share it, she’ll pick up on it for sure. This is a great opportunity for you as a parent to reconnect with your child and yourself.
If anything, the rewards of daydreaming should at the very least be: fun.
What are you daydreaming about? Let us know in the comments below.