Why, whatever are you doing here all alone? Exclaims mother on finding her fourtoen-year-old 6on or daughter sitting, apparently without occupation, in an empty room, or lying on the lawn in the afternoon sunshine. Oh, nothing – just thinking, replies the child, and seeks uneasily to escape. As he drifts away, he hears the somewhat querulous retort of an overworked or over-anxious parent: Well, at your ago its about time you had something better to do than mooning about like this. And the child goes away hurt.
Adolescence is the time of doubt, per-plexity, insecurity; it is the period of hovering on the threshold of the unknown. The day-dream is one of Natures provisions for this state. All children dream more or less during their waking hours; during early adolescence it becomes almost habitual with many children.
The day-dream, or reverie, has great possibilities both for good or for evil. Great inventors, creative artists, musicians remain day-dreamers all their lives; they seo the light that riever was on sea or land, and having seen it, reflect some of its radiance upon earth.
So it can be with youth. The day- dreams of the adolescent centre always upon self; they are of love, of ambition and achievement, of security. Youth sees in them himself as he would wish to be; he is his own hero, and his here knows no defeat, succumbs to no obstacles. He rises superior to everything.
So a boy may plan his career, a girl may resolve upon her way of life. When the day-dream leads to constructive thinking, and this in its turn to constructive action – it is here that parents can give invaluable help – then it is a source and spring of unmixed good. When, not concerned with material matters, it is a period of quiet pondering over ideals, of thinking what is worth while, deciding what ia base and con-temptible, then also it is of supreme value.-
It is when the day-dream becomes a flight from reality that it is dangerous and harmful; when youth, instead of facing the facts of life and deciding to grapple with them, seeks the solace of its imaginings, in which everything comes right miraculously and without effort. Thus is produced the ineffective man or woman, who can never seize an opportunity or riso to decisive action, the drifter, the evader of responsibility.
Day-dreams are particularly to be feared in comparatively dull, unintelligent children. Denied in the world of fact the supremacy they, like all others, desire, they seek it in a world of their own, in which they can be prophet, priest and king. They thus emphasize their disadvantages by denying them to themselves. Very sensitive children can find great relief in day-dreams; but if they begin to see themselves as the noble uncomplaining martyr, then trouble and neurosis are looming ahead.
Only parents who have remained in close and sympathetic touch with their childrens minds during childhood are likely to be admitted to the secrecy of day-dreams. They will know how to help by discussion, by gentle elimination of the impossible and undesirable elements, by providing opportunities for action along the right lines.