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! 

Mindful children – the answer to the future

Imagine having a child that is learning to be more mindful of others, at one with their natural environment and able to calm and regulate their emotions?  This is just some of the benefits of teaching your child about mindfulness.  If you’re not sure what mindfulness is about, you can get a quick induction by reading my previous post ‘Are you a mindful parent?’.  Now we can apply this to children.

Children are more in touch with their senses than us adults are.  They use these to learn from their world whilst us grown ups are busy thinking, thinking, thinking, but not necessarily feeling.  Without realising, our children might be a step further along their mindfulness practice than we are.  They just need us to guide them.  And this is why it is important to have a think about how mindful you are and start to become a role model of this.

The following list of activities is just a small start to get you thinking about the types of situations that are ideal for encouraging mindfulness with your children.

  • Eat outside.  This can be any meal or snack of the day.  Breakfast outside? Why not.  After school snack outside? Why not.  Eating itself is a great mindfulness activity.  Talk about the foods you are eating, the colours, the textures, the smell and even the sounds while you are crunching capsicum or snapping beans.  By eating outside, you can help your children to take in the sights, sounds and smells around them.

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  • Have a sing-a-long or blow some bubbles.  Singing and bubble blowing (letting the kids blow, that is!) involves using diaphragmatic breathing.  This encourages relaxation straight away, not to mention focussing on an engaging task.
  • Practice kids yoga.  The ultimate in breathing, body awareness, relaxation and enjoying the outdoors!  ‘Let the children show you how yoga is done’ gives you a run-down of how to get started.

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  • Get the kids washing each other’s hair!  Receiving a massage from a sibling is a great mindful activity.  Using a shampoo with essential oils also makes this an enticing olfactory exercise too.
  • Read books that focus on the child or their body.  ‘From Head to Toe’ by Eric Carle encourages your child to do animal actions.  ‘I Grow in Grandad’s Garden’ by Brian Andrew is a wonderful aide to help your child talk about their worries, feelings, dreams and gratitude.
  • Take the time to appreciate life and each other.  This could be as simple as encouraging the kids to thank the earth and farmers for the veggies they are eating, imagining how empty life would be without each other and appreciating the small actions of love they have received that day (for example, another child sharing with them, a sibling singing them a song or a hug from Daddy).
  • Study nature together.  Whether it’s talking about the weather, noticing the shapes of leaves or checking out the stars, this helps your child to look past their worries and to use their senses.
I wonder what the clouds are telling us today..

I wonder what the clouds are telling us today..

As you can see, these ideas are mostly activities that involve being outdoors (and taking conscious note of it), using the senses (and taking conscious note of it) or requiring children to move their bodies (and taking conscious note of it!).  This all helps your child to achieve more mindfulness.  And hopefully inspires you too!

What ideas can you come up with?

Have you signed up to follow I Raise My Kids yet?

Control, guilt, shame, anger

Speaking from first hand experience, it is much easier to work on yourself staying ‘cool’ when your kids try to steal your calm than trying to pick up the pieces, for your kids and you!

So how do you do this?
– Being ‘mindful’ is one way (link in comments to post about mindfulness).
– Dealing with your own emotions is another. Anger, control, guilt and shame, amongst other emotions, can all stem from not receiving enough love when we grew up, (even when we thought we did) OR particular events. This all affects how we respond to our own children when we get our ‘calm’ taken from us.

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It will always be easier to deal with any type of tantrum or emotional turmoil your child can throw at you, when you are not holding onto negativity from your own past.

How do you let go of this?
In a simple answer, getting to the source of your anger or your controlling issues or whatever it is AND THEN expressing it, will release that energy. You can express emotions through screaming (in an appropriate place!), writing it out, crying or even moving (say yoga poses).


Once you have released your what’s holding you back from the past, you will be amazed at the patience, understanding and calm you can have with your own kids. Then it just involves being mindful, to keep on top of your emotions.

Let me know if you want more information on this! 🙂  Heidi

I have an emotionally sensitive child

I have an emotionally sensitive child. And it is sometimes hard not to wear his emotions too!

Rather than ‘brush off’ his feelings with comments like ‘it’s okay’, ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘just let it go’, it works much better to identify with his strong feelings. I might say ‘you are really disappointed aren’t you?’, ‘that must’ve worried you a lot’ or ‘I know you wanted a turn first’.

Instead of firing him up more, he relaxes because he feels understood and supported.

This is one of the first steps in helping him to calm down and regulate his emotions. Without an understanding adult on his side, he is pretty much sure to ‘flip his lid’, where he can’t think straight, won’t let anyone in to help him and struggles to calm down for what seems like an eternity.

And of course, a hug to go with it brings even more success!

Who else can identify with one of these little sensitive ones?

What do cucumbers, dummies and cigarettes have in common?

They all provide ‘oral regulation’!!
‘Oral regulation’ means any repetitive chewing/sucking which calms the central nervous system and also improves concentration.  From babies with a dummy/thumb sucking, to kids and adults who suck lollipops, chew gum (think cricketers), chew fingernails and even cigarette smoking.
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Besides the nutritional benefit, these ‘crunchy things’ provide wonderful oral regulation.  I guess you could call them healthy oral regulation?  And it certainly works with Master nearly4!
Do you or your child use any other items for oral regulation? 🙂 Heidi

Do you want a hug?

[18 mths +] My best tactic for dissolving a tantrum/meltdown or in better terms ‘difficulty regulating one’s emotions’……..
‘Do you want a HUG!??!!??!??!’. Every single time my boys always say ‘YES’ (in an ‘I thought you’d never ask’ tone) and it calms them down enough for us to talk about the situation they were in. Much sooner than if I had not offered the hug!

The thing is, when your child is overwhelmed with emotion, their brain will find it virtually impossible to think straight or take in what you are saying to them. In fact, any type of talking or attempting to negotiate them in this state can actually add fuel to the fire.

The book ‘The Whole Brain Child’ by Daniel Spiegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a must-read if you are entering into tantrum zone with your child (or still struggling with them) and particularly if you are interested in how a child’s brain develops and works. It is a very easy read with plenty of drawings to keep you interested! You’ll find yourself taking sides with your child instead of fighting them..

ps – there are those occasions when your child might be SO worked up, they say ‘no’ to everything offered.  This is when I found it was time for any distraction, planted just near them for them to accept themself.  For us, it was the iPhone….!