Wednesday Wisdom

November 06, 2019

A Sprinkle of Magic

By Dr Kathy Weston

A Sprinkle of Magic


I often reflect that children, by their very nature, are magical creatures who engage with the world in ways that naturally exercise their imaginations. Sometimes, as parents, we feel forced to dispel a little magic, such as informing your child that the Tooth Fairy is in fact your bearded husband. This happened in my home this week!

Seeing the shock followed by the disappointment was gruelling. However, my son was able to look at the positives, one being that he was obviously seen as grown-up enough to take the news. He could finally join the “I know it’s not real” club, where membership is given to the most mature.

To counter the fact that I dispelled a modicum of magic from my son’s life this week, I have made a concerted effort to read a truly magical story to him, starting with The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, itself inspired by bored children on a boat trip with their father one day. When Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll) observed how sparked his children’s imaginations were by the tale, he went on to develop it as a book.


This week, research was published that suggested parents doing puzzles with their offspring could reduce the children's chance of dementia later in life. In this long-term study, eight year olds who had strong problem-solving skills, retained them into old age.

By building up our children’s thinking skills, we may be able to make our children more resilient to dementia. A Professor of Cognitive Health at the University of Oxford commented that, “the idea of reading imaginative stories with your child, solving problems, the richer your child’s cognitive life is, the richer their adult cognitive life will be”.

Problem-solving isn’t just important for cognitive health, it is also central to developing academic potential, so perhaps for seasonal gifts this year, you might bear this in mind and head to the puzzles or brain teaser section of your local bookstore. Heffers bookstore in Cambridge is my favourite place in the world for locating such gifts.


I am often asked by parents of teenagers about the difference between normal 'low mood' and 'depression' in this age group. How can parents distinguish between what is normal for all teens and something to be truly concerned about?

First of all, it is important to remember that your GP should always be the first port of call for such questions. However, if you are interested in reading great evidence-based advice on how best to support your sad/low mood teen, I would highly recommend Professor Shirley Reynolds’s co-authored book, Teenage Depression: a CBT guide for parents: help your child beat their low mood. She knows her stuff! This book is entirely practical, helping you to feel like you are doing what is optimal in terms of supporting your child.

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