How to help your children draw their way through an ‘experience’

How do you get your children to express themselves in a difficult situation, when language doesn’t necessarily flow that easily?  Drawing is the perfect answer!  Every child can pick up a pencil and when an adult is sensitive to what they are drawing, or telling you about at the end, it can be a very therapeutic tool.

Here is how our ‘experience’ of a missing pet unfolded. 

Day 1 – Through a chain of events, Master 2 opened the cage door, outside, of our beloved cockatiel of eight years.  Before we knew it, he was gone.  Thinking we had slim chances of finding Trevor, we did a small search around our block and went to put up some LOST signs.

I went to bed feeling dreadful for our poor pet, out with the wild birds and a 3degree night.

 

 

 

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Day 2 – I felt like I had to do one last call out, so I got up early and whistled my way around the block.  Just as I was about to head home, I heard him!  I went to find him in a tree and called my husband to come and help.  The boys waited in the car while my husband got up a ladder and we put a rake out for Trevor to climb onto (he had no idea how to fly downwards to us).  Well our poor bird got a fright from the rake and flew off – over the road and into a bush somewhere.

I spent the next half day whistling my way around a much wider radius of our house and ended up back at home feeling frustrated and tired and worried, again, for our bird.  The boys were now trying to make sense of it all and wondering why Mummy was so sad.  They were sure Trevor would be back. 

That afternoon, with my husband gone for the next few days, the boys and I walked to two parks, putting up more signs and whistling more.  In a last ditch effort, I drove us back to the bush where we saw him head and whistled out the car window.  I just had to find him.  He called out!!!  So again, the boys waited in the car while I searched for Trevor, whistling from somewhere in a big clump of gum trees, over a swamp…..  

The next while included:

  • Trevor flying at me and missing me and ending up high in a gumtree
  • Myna birds attacking him
  • Me attempting to throw 2metre branches at them
  • Me wondering how Trevor would manage to just drop from the tree, back to me
  • Trevor flying off to another tree with birds chasing him
  • Me chasing Trevor, the boys watching on in the car

Well, Trevor did think about flying down to me again but just couldn’t do it.  So I jumped in the car with the boys and raced back to our house to get his cage, in a hope he might come down to his seed and water.  All the while, I was explaining to the boys about the excitement, yes, of finding him but the nervous times ahead of trying to catch him and about the fact it was nearly dark.

We left Trevor in the branch that night with his cage under the tree.  The boys and I discussed the myna birds and why they were attacking Trevor.  We made a plan to go on an early morning adventure the next day to catch him.  I was at this point forcing myself to use positive thinking AND talking in front of the boys about it.  I also had to be organised and clear with ideas of how to catch him AND entertain the boys for who knows how long the next morning.  

Day 3 – With my stomach feeling a bit sick and my heart in my mouth, we got back to the tree and Trevor was quiet but still there.  Unfortunately, he was no closer to coming down and was not wanting to give himself away to the myna birds, who happened to have a nest a few branches over.  I spoke with a groundsman (of the retirement village we were in) who agreed I should come back at a slightly more decent hour and use the neighbour’s hose to get Trevor down. 

We drove home and waited the nervous wait.  It was here, we had the time to start drawing.  Of course there were many parts of the story we could have drawn about, but it was nice to see what the boys chose and what they talked about.  It allowed for us all to have a ‘free range’ discussion about any thoughts that were on the top of their head.  And let me see what they were making of it all.  

Master 4's myna bird - the 'naughty bird' (with an unwelcome scribble on top from Master 2)

Master 4’s myna bird – the ‘naughty bird’
(with an unwelcome scribble on top from Master 2)

I started drawing my own experience, and soon Master 4 was adding to it. 

Mummy at the bottom waving her big stick.  The boys in the car yelling 'mummy'!...

Mummy at the bottom waving her big stick. The boys in the car yelling ‘mummy’!…

Well we went back again.  The boys geared up for more waiting while Mummy raced out and found the groundsman.  He sprayed the hose, which only attracted attention to Trevor, he tried his leaf blower, which did nothing, then he got out his extendable saw.  He moved the branch and Trevor flew off again.  My heart was back in my mouth racing after him and seeing the main road.  It was two crows that gave Trevor away and there he was, at my height.  I grabbed him, full of relief and ecstatic.  

We brought Trevor home and cut him some new branches and let him rest.  He was fairly battered. 

Got him!

Got him!

That night, unfortunately, Trevor took a turn for the worse, and died.  Whilst it was very sad, it was good to know that he was at home with us and this made the boys realise how much they loved him. 

Day 4 – I broke the news to the boys.  Master 4 understood that death means that Trevor’s body has died but his spirit lives on, the one that is braver and stronger and full of love, for having gone through all of this.  Master 2 worked out Trevor was ‘sleeping’ 😀

We drew some more. 

Master 4's account of events from the capture to Trevor's death.

Master 4’s account of events from the capture to Trevor’s death.

Master 4 was now just talking as he drew.  It was good to see what he had understood from it all.  He was unsure how to draw hearing about Trevor’s death.  I explained not necessarily drawing a picture, but maybe using the different coloured pencils to show his feelings with his hand movements or by the colours he chose.  I modelled for him. 

Drawing the moment Master 4 heard of Trevor's death

Drawing the moment Master 4 heard of Trevor’s death

Master 2 joined in drawing a rainbow to bring us some happiness, like the rainbow we had seen on day 3.

Master 2 joined in drawing a rainbow to bring us some happiness, like the rainbow we had seen on day 3.

The hope from day 3...

The hope from day 3…

After doing so many drawings in a few days, the boys are back into their habit of drawing their thoughts and ideas out.  Every time they do regular drawing, they always get so much out of it.  Ideas flow out, drawing skills improve daily and creativity in both drawing and story telling is inspiring! 

In my health coach course, we have learnt about the power of expressing oneself on paper and after the last few days, I aim to sit with the boys and draw more too.  

How much do you draw?  Have you ever encouraged your children to draw their way out of a tough situation?  Will you encourage them to sit down and do drawing more regularly?

I hope to get time soon to post about our ‘Daily draw’, where the boys drew every day for a month.  

Well, that’s it for my Trevor story.  I hope I have shown my boys that persistence and a positive attitude can really bring about miracles.  We should probably never have found Trevor…twice! 

Enough with the left brain and more of the right brain!

We began with our morning tea in the garden and discussed the art project : to draw an item and then paint it too.
Master 4 chose our new ‘child’, our avocado tree. We got out our beautiful rainbow dice (Thanks Apple n Amos) and decided to pick three colours for our project.
Purple, orange and yellow.
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Here is Master 4’s results. And of course this project lead into experimentation with these colours and the feel of paint, particularly for Master 2. But that is another story!

I encourage everyone to try this. You could do lucky dip for colours or even have a go at the project yourself.
Or check out Apple n Amos!

 

Let your children learn with art

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Okay, so who encourages painting, drawing or other creative outlets within their children? I am going to try and inspire as many of you as possible to see beyond the mess and learn about the benefits of providing some art materials and all…owing your child to express themselves, receive sensory benefits and not to mention cultivating mindfulness.

We don’t have time for fancy projects, we just get in there and do art for art’s sake.
So who is with me….or open to becoming more inspired to bringing art into their homes…?

Telling stories with symbols

[~3years+]
Sitting opposite Master nearly4, we made up a story as we doodled along.  We drew some leaves and then thought about some jellyfish, so next we drew some seaweed next to the leaves, before we made a nest and some magpie beaks (sym…bol  for the magpies) and then back to the sea theme, drawing some fish for them to eat.  Whilst it sounds disjointed and ‘dream-like’, it really took us out of our left brain (the thinking one) and into our right brain (the creative one) where any idea is a good idea and also very relaxing!  Before we knew it, we had what looks like a page of symbols, but which was actually a wonderful verbal story, told together!  Maybe a bit like the Aborigines…?  Give it a try!
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Introductions to my new teacher..

[When in doubt, say it with a pen]
Today, Master nearly 4 and I sat down to do a drawing.  This happens nearly daily, as our way of working out what is on his mind, helping him to express his strong emotions and having some together time.  Tomorrow, Master nearly 4 meets his new kindy teacher.  He is very excited.  So I asked him, ‘what will you tell her about yourself??’.  He couldn’t come up with a single thing…!
So we did a drawing.  Nothing fancy – I don’t have time for that.  Just a quick cartoon with the first square setting the scene – ‘here you are meeting Tanya’.  And then I gave him FIVE boxes to put something in each, about what he would like her to know about himself.
So I ended up having to give him a list of ideas – name, age, family, interests etc.  After that, he found it easy to list off his top 5 (and I’m jumping up and down that Octonauts didn’t make the list!).
After he talked and I drew, we gave each a title, such as ‘you/your family’, ‘interest’, ‘home’…
I’m sure he could have come up with some of these things by himself in his own good time, however this has helped him to learn a bit more about WHO he is and we had a nice time together too!
🙂 Heidi

You've got 5 boxes to fill...

You’ve got 5 boxes to fill…

Saying it with a pen – starting school

So who’s little ones have/are starting school this year? Hopefully it is all smooth sailing! But don’t forget if your child is hesitant to change or slow to warm up in new situations, you might need to spend a bit more time helping them with this. Unless you ask, a child may not know how to ‘announce’ what is worrying them or simply what they are confused by. Are you up for asking the question, ‘…Was there anything worrying/scary/confusing about your day at school?’. I always find it easiest to get out the notebook and pen & draw a ‘cartoon strip’ of what happened in the situation. You might ask ‘so where did you first get nervous? Ok so let’s draw you at your desk & mummy is walking out the door…what happened next?, what did you think then?….how did you feel after he said that?, who was there then?’. The main point is to talk about what your child was feeling/saying/doing and how they could make it better next time. Maybe they just need to release their emotions in a safe place, with you. Here is a link to my initial post When in doubt, say it with a pen.

You’re going to be a big sister! Now here’s what’s going to change…

As the nine months draws to an end, most parents start to feel the nerves of managing one child (or more!) AND a newborn.  Yes it does come with challenges, logistical craziness and plenty of work in helping your older child through, no matter what their age,  but keep in mind it is still a very special time and hopefully an exciting event for your child!

The good thing is, you can start to make small changes before the baby arrives to help prepare your child for what will eventually be the ‘new’ way of life.  Do talk about the pros of the little brother or sister’s arrival but remember playing cars and tea parties will be YEARS from now!  Your child needs to know what will happen from day one, particularly what will affect them.  

Change helps us to learn and grow....

Change helps us to learn and grow….

You can start by slowly introducing some of the changes below and providing pieces of information about the ‘new’ way of life…and repeat as much as they need!  

  • Prepare for the whole family to have a shake-up to their routine for a while.  You can start talking to your child about what might change for them, such as coming to watch the baby have a bath before their bath or explaining that Mummy or Daddy might have a sleep in the daytime.
  • Prepare to be breast-feeding at any time of the day, including right at your child’s bath, book or going to sleep time.  You can change up any routine now by having your husband step in (or you if you don’t normally take that activity, as down the track your husband might be doing the baby settling which gives you a chance to spend time with child 1).  Encourage independence in any activity that your child is close to, such as scooping their own food or taking off some of their clothes before their bath and putting it in the laundry.
  • Prepare to need quiet while someone is trying to settle the baby.  You can start practicing being quiet with your child, practicing for when baby arrives.  Doll or teddy play is great for this or even making a game of tiptoeing to the bedroom.
  • Prepare to be needed in two places at the one time.  You can start making your child wait that bit longer before you get to them or getting them to set themselves up for say book time or at the dinner table.  Again, think encouraging independence in any skill that your child is close to mastering!
  • Prepare to be busy.  You can start thinking about new routines now.  This might be cooking dinners when your child sleeps/rests, to avoid super-crazy witching hour or if you need to go hard at improving your child’s sleeping habits.  Reconsider any changes to your child’s life for the first little while, such as toilet training, moving to a bed, mostly as you will have less time and emotional energy to deal with these.
  • Prepare for a family full of emotion from tiredness to jealousy!  You can prepare your child by either talking to your child about the feelings that they might face (Trace Moroney writes a great series of books ‘When I’m feeling… kind, lonely, sad, jealous, happy, angry, scared, loved’) or prepare to give out many hugs and special time for your little one if they are too young to understand the words for these scenarios.  The most important thing is to be HONEST.  When you sit down and think about it, there might be few ‘pros’ for your child to have this new baby in their life so it is important not to pretend it is anything other than how your child is feeling that it is.  Jealousy and loneliness COULD be on the cards but on the other hand, your child might enjoy helping out and being the big brother/sister!
  • As mentioned in many of my posts, drawing is a great way to help your child talk things out whilst keeping their attention.  You might do a stick figure drawing and say ‘remember when you were in your room today whilst Mummy was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) Did you feel jealous that Mummy wasn’t there playing with you?’ or ‘remember when Mummy couldn’t get to swimming today because she was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) How did you feel taking Daddy instead? (you might let them draw the smile/frown or give them options of ‘excited’, ‘sad’, ‘both’).  Drawing brings past events (even from 10 minutes ago) to a concrete level for your child to think about more easily.  It also lasts longer in front of them than words that come and go.  And it can end up being a ‘special activity’ they get to do with Mummy or Daddy.  Link here to find out more about drawing conversations with your child.

Above all, patience and understanding is really needed, which can be extremely hard when you are exhausted.  You can only do your best and remember, all the first-borns in the world have had to go through the same thing!  ‘You’re going to be a big brother. What do I say next?’ also has information on how/when to break the news and preparing your child for the birth.

Come and visit I Raise My Kids at Facebook and Google+ 🙂

How long will we be there Mummy?

[18 mths+] Don’t forget to explain to your children what will be happening over the next few days and weeks!!!!! You might use a few strategies below:
– get out a calendar (or just draw boxes for each day) and draw what is happening each day
– there might be where you are going, who you will see, Santa/presents etc
– explain scenarios according to your child’s age. For the young ones it might be ‘Santa, presents tomorrow’, ‘we go in the car tonight, singing’. For the older ones you might be explaining other concepts about Christmas eg carols – what IS a ‘one-horse open sleigh’, Jesus Christ, tidings, bobtail etc!
– timing – for the little ones you might be talking in ‘tomorrows’ but otherwise a calendar with symbols or words helps as a visual aide for the older ones
– think about all the changes that are happening in their life – no daycare, parents off work, going on holiday. Are they wondering if life will ever go back to normal?

From having been an exchange student and not having a clue what I was doing from day to day, not understanding the language, I’m aware that our children no matter how young may be wondering but also not able to ask!
 Heidi

Saying it with a pen – coping with disappointment

Coping with disappointment is related to ‘difficulty adapting to change’, when a change happens that the child wasn’t expecting!  Spirited children find it even harder to cope with change and disappointment as they go into almost a flight/fight/freeze reaction where they cannot think logically or clearly.

Master 3 had been watching Playschool, one of his favourite dinosaur episodes and always loved to dance to the dinosaur songs with his dino tail on.  Unfortunately, if the tail isn’t on as the song begins, a meltdown occurs.  It is easy to say ‘calm down’, ‘you’ve missed TWO seconds of the song, don’t worry’, but Master 3 has ‘flipped his lid‘ (as The Whole Brain Child calls it) and he cannot think clearly or logically from then on.  No matter what we do!

So!  One day, having had enough of it, I announced we were doing a drawing to set Master 3 up for success the next time.  This time was lost, but at least I could prepare his brain better for next time, before he had another ‘dino meltdown’!

If you haven’t already, you can also refer to When in doubt, say it with a pen! for a run-down on the benefits of drawing with your child 🙂  This is how this drawing went…

First

the meltdown

the meltdown

Square 1. Master 3 watching Playschool

2.  I asked how Master 3 felt in this scenario – he responded ‘sad’ so I prompted ‘but what made you sad’ to get him talking more – ‘no tail’.

3. I drew Mummy running to get the tail but Master 3 still crying.

4. I asked Master 3 how he felt after Mummy went to get his tail – he responded ‘sad, I didn’t like missing out on the song (without the tail on)’

5. So I drew Mummy trying to give him the tail so we could go back to that part to talk about it more, as Master 3 just couldn’t calm down even though he had the tail and the song was still going.  He responded ‘too sad to dance to some of the song’.  His words.

6. We finished the drawing with how the scenario ended, Master 3 still upset.

Second

take 2 - the fairytale version

take 2 – the fairytale version

Square 1.  I started the drawing with ‘Master 3 is happy his dino song is on!!’ and drew a happy face to start the drawing.  This had Master 3 laughing just thinking about it, almost relieved he didn’t have to get upset.  I asked him what he needed to say – he came up with ‘mummy get my tail please!’. Nice.

2. I wrote what Master 3 might say ‘put it on quick, I’ll dance to some of it, with my tail’.

3.  Master 3 again, so happy to see himself happy and dancing at the end of this story.  We compared with the ending of story 1.

Third

the what if version

the what if version

The most important part – thinking about what variations of the fairy tale version might happen, so we don’t get another surprise next time!  Mental practice for the not-so-planned times is SO helpful for children who don’t cope with change and disappointment well.  Knowing that Master 3 was primed for me to put his tail straight on, we talked about what happened if the tail wasn’t right there in the room.

Square 1. ‘Mummy get my tail please’

2. Mummy running for the tail – the key point here – Master 3 still SMILING!

3.  I asked Master 3 what he would do in the meantime – ‘I might dance until my tail comes’.  He’s getting it!

4.  Mummy putting the tail on – Master 3 still happy (‘not like that first story!!’)

5.  Hooray, Master 3 is STILL happy.

 The other day, we had success!  Master 3 stayed calm and said to Master 1 ‘You just dance and mummy will get a tail for you’.

problem solved!!!!

problem solved!!!!

Catch us on Facebook – I raise my kids 🙂

Saying it with a pen – appropriate greetings

One day Master 3 started taking my face in his hands and giving me a kiss. Cute!  Until I heard he was doing it to the ladies at daycare…!

So we did a drawing!

where does everyone fit in?

where does everyone fit in?

I asked Master 3 how he would greet the main people in his life.  This was an eye-opener!!

Kiss

Master 3 named just about everyone under this category!  So we talked about who in our family we kiss.  Some partners of family members we haven’t known for long, so we discussed if they should move to hug or shake hands.

Hug

We talked about how it is probably more appropriate to hug friends and educators at daycare than kiss and that it is still a very nice way to show you care.  We also discussed when people are showing they have had enough of the hug (pulling away, brother whinging).

Shaking hands

We talked about how to know when to hug or shake hands.  Shaking hands being mostly with men that we know, especially when they put their hand out.   We practiced again how to do this!  Opposite hands, opposite hands.

Waving

It’s still nice to be friendly to people we don’t know so well, or don’t know at all.  This could be the swimming instructor or the garbage man.  When someone waves at you, that’s probably a good sign to wave back and not to hug, kiss or shake hands.

This was a fun discussion but also an important one, particularly for overly affectionate Master 3!  The start of ‘stranger danger’ but he doesn’t know it yet.