“A STORY can be true from the heart, even if it’s not true from the brain.”

These were the words of a child who came to chat with me after I’d told a story.

She had listened intently and I was taken aback by the wisdom of the remark.

I’d just told a tale in which a penguin looks up at the moon from her icy world and wonders what it would be like to be on the moon.

She hears lots of different ideas and opinions, and this just makes her want to find out herself. So she decides to become an astronaut and flies there in a rocket.

When she arrives on the moon, she is initially very disappointed; there is no ice, no sea, there are no fish, no sounds of life.

It’s a lonely place. Then she looks at the dark sky and sees the distant Earth and is overwhelmed by the sight of its beauty.

When she returns to Earth, she is so happy to be able to sit and look up at the moon once again.

It’s still a beautiful sight in the sky but now the moonlight has a different meaning for the penguin; instead of illuminating a far-off place she wants to go, it lights up the majesty and beauty of her home, and makes her glad she lives on Earth, where there is ice, sea, fish and the sounds and delights of life.

“Of course I know a penguin can’t be an astronaut,” said the child.

“But that story is true in a different way. I know it’s not a real happening, but it’s a story that’s true from your heart, if you know what I mean.”

I understood perfectly what she meant.

We then had a short discussion on what “truths of the heart” we both saw within the tale.

These included: “We can do unexpected things if we really try and believe it is possible; we sometimes don’t notice the wonders just outside our window because we spend all our time wondering what’s over the horizon; often we need to lose the things most important to us in order to really appreciate them.”

Such stories allow us to find truth. We can’t argue over the facts of it, because it’s fiction, and fiction isn’t fact. But it can still be true.

As the best-selling author Cassandra Clare once wrote: “There is truth in stories. . . fiction is truth, even if it is not fact.”

I think such truths from the heart are what we need to share with ourselves right now.

Our brains are frazzled and I see a society that is so ‘war weary’.

We are all feeling frustrated, deeply disappointed, totally fed up; many of us are devastated, fearful or in despair, and so many suffering loss. We should add anger to this mix.

It’s not just adults who are feeling these emotions, of course, but children as well.

The impact on children’s mental health is all too apparent, with so many young people feeling high levels of anxiety and stress, and no wonder.

Some of this is surfacing in behaviour, not just in schools but in the streets and at home.

Behaviour is only the visible tip of an iceberg of feelings. Children are absorbing the emotions of adults around them, as well as being directly affected by the disconnection, loss and uncertainty they are personally experiencing; that hidden iceberg is huge and getting bigger for us all.

What’s all this to do with a fictional story about a penguin who becomes an astronaut and flies to the moon?

It’s a fantasy tale, so the truth in it has to be discovered.

It’s a personal discovery, not a fact told to us, and so is deeply true for us.

Such stories are what we all need, especially at times like these.

Where do we find them? We can make them up for our kids and for ourselves.

But they are everywhere, of course: in books and films, in poems and in our imaginations and from our experiences. Share these stories and discuss them, and then listen.

I told the story of the penguin to Skye, my eight-year-old daughter, and asked her what truth she found in it.

“I think the penguin loves the moon even more after her adventure because it has helped her find the place she belongs,” she told me.

“It’s good to have an adventure, but they can be scary sometimes.

“When you have a place you belong, then you can have an adventure, even if you feel scared.

“I think the moon has helped her to be brave, that’s why she loves it.”

Afterwards, she drew the picture above, then spoke of other feelings, of missing her sister and her worries and her place of belonging and safety.

I listened to her heart speak her truth.

We all have our truths from our hearts, and stories can help us discover and understand them. Winter solstice is upon us, the time when light slowly begins to return and challenge the dark.

Stories can do the same.