A tragic event most commonly leaves us adults feeling confused, sad, angry and fearful. And if we cannot make sense of a tragedy or if our fears have been triggered, then imagine how children feel. If adults feel fearful after tragedy or its the aftermath, then how do we keep our children feeling safe?
With my background in the expressive arts and folklore, I've worked with traumatized children in a variety of settings. After receiving questions from a few parents and clients this past week, I decided to compile a quick list of the creative activities that I most commonly utilize. These activities have two main objectives:
1.) To make sure the child feels safe enough to open up and talk about anything with a parent or an adult
2.) To make sure the child knows that the parent or the adult will do everything possible to keep him or her safe in this world
While we may not always have the power to control what happens in the world around us, we do have the power to give children constructive tools to help them deal with the problems within the world as well as to show children that the world is still BRIGHT HAPPY and MAGICAL.
Before I list my activities, I would like to mention the importance of not creating a fearful environment for children. Children are extremely sensitive to the news and to adult reactions. If adults are walking around saying "How could this happen?" or "What an absolute tragedy" or if adults are fixating on the television, then this is creating a fearful environment for children. Try limiting your own news intake and read this post about creating a positive environment. It's good to let children know that feeling scared or sad is perfectly acceptable as long as we offer some tools to cope with the feelings. Just make sure that our own fears are not creating a fearful environment and make sure that the environment is appropriate for a child's developmental stage.
Here is a list of creative activities to help children work through a tragedy:
1.) Creative Writing and Storytelling. Telling and writing stories are not only excellent outlets for emotion, but they also help children process a tragedy, even when their creative story may not seem like it's related to the event. For example, I often hear tales of superheros and children born with special powers after a tragedy occurs. Even if the characters aren't engaging with the tragedy itself, it is soothing for children to believe in the safety these legendary people offer the world and it is empowering for children to believe that they have special abilities in a world where they may feel powerless.
Let children create their own stories regardless of the themes that may arise--they are inserting their concerns and feelings into the story. If themes of violence or tragedy do occur, then play a mutual storytelling game where the child tells the story first, then you either tell, reenact or use puppets to retell a modified version of the story. Throw in fun and magical twists as well as positive tools or messages to address any issues that appeared in the first tale. (Keep messages simple, "I love you," "I will do everything to keep you safe," "There is so much good in this world," etc.)
2.) Art. A variety of art materials should always be available to children. Sometimes children don't want to talk about what they have seen or heard about a tragedy. Chalk, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, finger paints and clay are all excellent tools to help your child express their conscious and unconscious thoughts. When your child is finished, ask questions about their artwork and really listen to their answers as well as acknowledge their feelings. Try not to push them into talking, just ask a few questions and let them lead the conversation.
3.) Creative Play. Children often process the world around them by engaging in play. Encourage children to use their imaginations to explore situations and outcomes. Try not to correct them if violence or scary themes arise, just gently redirect them to more positive ideas and solutions for resolving their anger. (Remember, we want to encourage children to open up and talk, so if we scold them for violent thoughts, they are likely to keep their ideas to themselves.)
A sensory table can also be therapeutic for a child. Fill a container with brightly colored sand or Kool-aid dyed pasta shapes and allow your child to use his or her toys (miniature humans, animals, houses, trees) for creative play. Pay attention because the child most commonly will use the toys to represent their needs.
And finally, interacting with puppets or offering some stuffed animals for comfort and anger release are also great tools to inspire creative play. Here is a quick tutorial on how to make your own puppets:
4.) Go to an uplifting movie or to a storytelling event. After a tragedy (especially a tragedy that directly impacts a child), it may be difficult for children to believe that the world is a bright and happy place and that there is an infinite amount of positive experiences just waiting for them. Experiencing uplifting, inspiring or even just silly stories often shifts this negative outlook. I specifically write and perform my stories to not only make children smile and feel magical, but my stories also keep them feeling empowered, inspired and hopeful. Engaging in positive stories can be key to helping children cope with tragedy.
5.) Focus on the good. Take a trip around town looking for all of the hardworking and caring people in this world. You can even design a scavenger hunt for younger children and include things like a police car, a police person, a fire truck, a fire person, a paramedic, an ambulance, healthcare workers, a teacher, a trained guide dog, a school, etc. By showing a child that there are lots and lots of positive people who care for this world, you are offering him or her hope and reassurance.
I do hope that this post offers you some ideas to help create a brighter and happier world for the children around you. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like me to address a specific issue in a blog post.
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This gift will surely make your child feel like the magical shining star he or she truly is!
Hello, everyone! This is post number two from our Sparkle Saturday blog party! Enjoy! Xx
We all need to practice being more positive every day! Thinking positive leads to feeling positive and feeling positive leads to being the sparkling people that we truly are!
The following bright and happy exercises are perfect for inspiring children and adults to sparkle! The exercises are perfect for adults because we need to express our imaginations and open ourselves up creatively in order to feel happy, grounded and more childlike.
The exercises are perfect for children because children need to establish positive habits that will help them be happy and healthy for their lifetimes. (Children are constantly acquiring tools from us to help them in their futures.) Also, it is essential that children see adults caring for ourselves by playing and being creative because it makes growing up a more positive and exciting experience.
And most importantly, these are perfect exercises to do together because everyone needs to work as a team in order to build a positive foundation for ourselves, our families and our communities!
Emmy's creative activities for feeling positively sparkling:
1.) Create positive affirmation bracelets as a family. These can easily be made with paper and crayons, but if you are feeling particularly crafty try making a collage, or use found objects, felt, beads, a cut-up old t-shirt...anything works, really! Let the bracelets serve as positive reminders throughout tough times or stressful days.
2.) Blast your space with uplifting color! What colors make you feel sparkly? Let your child decorate your space (office, kitchen desk, a color shrine) with these colors. Then help your child decorate his or her space with their favorite colors. Surrounding yourself with your favorite colors is essential to feeling sparkly. If you aren't ready to make a permanent change, just hang colorful pictures on the wall using tape or sticky tack. You will be amazed at how positive you feel when surrounded by happy colors!
3.) Draw, paint, color portraits. Sit down with a child and ask the child to draw a portrait of sparkling you! (Trust me, the child sees so much more sparkle in you than you can see). While he or she is drawing you, you make a sparkling portrait of the him or her! Don't think about it. Just let what makes them sparkle flow onto your page. And never ever judge your artwork, it is absolutely perfect!
Be sure to post your portraits somewhere visible so that you can be reminded to sparkle whenever you need to! Seeing your sparkling portraits will help you both feel more positive as well as help with building a better self-image. You are also teaching your child the important lesson of taking the time to love and care for himself or herself in a fun and creative way.
4.) Try out storytelling. Take turns telling one another about your most sparkliest memory ever. Perhaps it was your child's birth or the big Valentine's Day snowball fight with your brother. Relive the sparkly moment by acting it out with your voice and your body.
Storytelling is an exciting way to pass along family fun and personal history so that your child knows where he or she fits into the big family picture. This strengthens and secures a child's self-esteem and self-worth. Storytelling is also important because it shows everyone that their lives are valuable and worth sharing with others.
5.) Create a sparkly snowflake out of paper. We are all unique and special just like magical snowflakes. What better way to honor our individual sparkly selves than to cover a window or to hang sparkly snowflakes in your home. You can even write what makes you brilliantly unique on the back of the snowflakes, so as they flutter around in the air, they spread your unique sparkling magic throughout your home.
Well, I have tales to tell and you have lots of creative fun ahead of you today! If you are in the giant snow storm, please stay snug and safe. Happy Sparkly Saturday! Xx
Lots of love,
P.S. Follow the sparkling trail to more "I Sparkle" Sparkling Saturday blog posts written by my sparkletacular friends...
In alphabetical order...
Yota Schneider: Seasons of Change Master Coach, writer, speaker, retreats facilitator , mindfulness meditation practitioner, mom, wife, friend, ever striving gardener and finder of beauty and peace in the little things. BlogFacebookWebsite
Lynda Shoup: School librarian, children's writer and poet with a sparkle in her eye and plenty of fairy dust to share. BlogFacebook
Kat Wynne-Brown: Creator of KatWB, an Online Holistic Arts Center! Enjoy her virtual classes, holistic coaching, a holistic blog, KatWB TV and resources for nutrition, sustainability & self-help. BlogFacebookWebsite
Hello friends of the forest! I hope everyone is having a magical day.
This past weekend a couple of parents asked me how I write stories for my storytelling programs and for my personalized stories. What an excellent opportunity to post another exercise to help free our creative spirits. (For the last week, I have been posting on freeing our expressive selves through creative play. So far, we've danced, danced, danced and played a storytelling game.)
Try out my method for a little creative fun:
1.) Put yourself into a creative space.
Relax in a quiet and a private place for several minutes. Close your eyes and give yourself full permission to let go and dream. Sometimes, if it's difficult to focus, I dance, I release a scream or I shake out all of the noise in my head.
2.) With your eyes closed, imagine your storytelling audience.
Sometimes I imagine a group of wide-eyed children awaiting a story that sends them to a magical land. And sometimes I imagine a group of adults awaiting a story that reawakens the child within. If I'm writing a story for a particular audience, then I envision that audience. Your audience may vary with each story you write.
3.) Without thinking about plots or any details, watch yourself tell a story to that audience.
What do they need to hear? What do they need to see? What do they need to experience? Notice what images, thoughts, and feelings come to you. They might not make sense, but take note of everything. Sometimes I envision an entire story, but more often, I see images like scarves or I hear sounds like clapping or character voices. Incorporate these images, thoughts and feelings into the story.
I handwrite most storytelling tales because I need to stay connected to the imagined audience. Sometimes I use a rainbow of vibrant markers and sometimes I use whatever writing I can find. The important thing is to write your ideas down without filtering. Your words will make sense in the end, I promise. At this stage, the story doesn't need a developed plot. Just let a quick story flow onto the paper.
4.) Regardless of any gaps or holes in the plot, close your eyes and tell the story to your audience.
Note their reactions. They will gently inform you what works and what doesn't work. Incorporate their ideas and make any necessary changes. You may see more images or feel emotions that guide you to further develop your story.
5.) Rehearse the story aloud.
Sometimes I need to practice a story hundreds of times before it feels finished, while other times I nail it on the third try. Just keep practicing until your story feels completed. And don't let your fear of performing the story determine if you are finished or not. Fear is natural and, sometimes, no matter how well you know your story, fear will trick you into thinking you aren't ready to perform it. You will never feel 100% prepared, so step through the fear and tell your story to a live audience.
Smile as you tell your tale because you will be successful and you will have fun!
The most important thing to remember when writing a storytelling tale is to listen and trust yourself. Even if you do not think you are a writer or a storyteller yet, you have stories inside of you that need to be shared with others. Perhaps a story will help you start off a meeting at work or perhaps your children need a story to reiterate a lesson you've been teaching them. Don't think too much about it, just allow yourself to be free and to let the words flow!
I hope everyone is dancing! Here is another great exercise to help free our creative selves. This post is directed towards those who expressed on the Creative Playtime post that they would like to try storytelling.
The following storytelling exercise can be done with two or more people. If you are fearful about performing in front of others, I recommend trying the game with children first. Let a child begin the activity and notice how he or she has no "sensors" or embarrassment when the story does not come out perfectly. Children are good teachers because they simply and easily let ideas flow right out of their mouths. Learn from this and free yourself from the voices in your head!
Also, children make perfect creative mentors and playmates because they are supportive beings who love when adults drop their "guard." Children will not judge you and their magical smiles will boost your confidence!
1.) Have one person start telling a story (any story will do-- an imaginary tale, a favorite fairy tale, a memory). And don't just tell the story, act out the story by using exaggerated gestures and voices.
2.) At any point during the story, the other player(s) can yell "Freeze." When "Freeze" is called, the storyteller sits down. The player who called "Freeze" takes the storyteller's exact same physical position and either begins telling a completely different unrelated story, continues the story, or changes the outcome of the story.
3.) The new storyteller continues until someone else calls "Freeze" and so the story grows. Keep this activity going and going and going until you have a hilariously crazy story!
Storytelling offers magical freedom once you let go of your fear! Be sure to laugh and play as you practice letting your mind, words and body run wild! Happy Storytelling!
Stories, stories, stories. I read stories. I write stories. I speak stories. I can even act out stories and illustrate stories! So why was I feeling bored and blocked over a simple story that I was editing this weekend?
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and heard, Try communicating the story without reaching for the tools that you utilize every single day-- Paintthe story.
Now, my husband is an artist who has an entire closet filled with magical treasures just for painting! Having never before painted anything in my life, I enthusiastically grabbed every essential painting supply (anything bright, colorful and glittery, any shiny gadget or silly looking brush, as well as anything with a pleasant scent is my definition of 'essential').
Then I began to paint my story.
The creative process was simple because I have no artistic training. I don't know a thing about painting, so I did what I felt.I did not think about the end result.
The story on the canvas continued to change for an hour until a mermaid appeared. It was this magical mermaid who led me out of the boring black abyss that had me feeling trapped and guided me towards the bright world where creativity flows easy and free.
Meet my magical (semi-finished) mermaid:
(Official title: Telling my tale with paint, not words)
Although she may not end up in a gallery, painting this mermaid opened me up to a world of creative possibilities! (So my magical mission was accomplished!) Even if you aren't feeling blocked at the moment, give the exercise a try.
Don't be afraid to embrace a different creative medium in order to get your ideas and inspiration flowing again! Just keep creating and stay magical no matter what happens! Xx
Yesterday, as the sun slipped behind the trees, I took the enchanted pup running in a park filled with children playing soccer. My decrepit running shoes plodded along to sounds of slobbery puppy pants and cheering soccer families. Then, after four laps around the park, a gang of bored soccer siblings ambushed the enchanted pup with hugs and handfuls of weeds. I believe it is the enchanted pup's enormous dangly tongue that attracts children (not to mention, it is her tongue that has parents cringing and reaching for hand-sanitizing potions).
After introductions, a boy, with what appeared to be purple jam smeared across his forehead, got into my face and yelled, "WHAT DO YOU DO? ARE YOU A LAWYER?"
"I'm a storyteller," I replied.
"WELL, TELL A STORY THEN!" another child snapped.
When disclosing my profession to a child or an adult, this is the most common response. And I typically oblige due to my rule to accept every storytelling opportunity offered. (Even when panting, sweating and wearing worn out jogging shorts and a t-shirt covered with neon sheepies circa 1993).
"What type of story would you like to hear?" I asked as the gang of sticky and sugar-fuelled children and I made our way over to the rusty bleachers.
Noting the female to male ratio, I was expecting to hear the usual cliché answers (princesses, princess fairy tales, Disney princesses and fairy princesses or even Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Bella Swan). But then a pig-tailed four-year-old girl rolling on top of the enchanted pup yelled at the top of her lungs, "DEMON SLIME BABIES!"
"Ah, yes, demon slime babies. Great idea! Well, Icould tell a story about demon slime babies orI could tell you the story of a magical little creature who lives in the forest right over there."
She pushed my pointer finger down and said, "NO! DEMON SLIME BABIES!"
"What about the story of a peculiar little girl who finds a magical stalk of broccoli that..."
Whilst lifting his eyelids with his fingers until only the whites showed, a boy shouted, "WHAT?! MAGICAL BROCCOLI IS BORING, LADY! TELL A STORY ABOUT...ABOUT...*achoo*...PIZZAS!"
He proceeded to wipe nose sludge onto his bare arm and kneecap. "Sneeze pizzas?" I asked.
The children giggled and burst into the chant, "DEMON SLIME BABIES! DEMON SLIME BABIES! DEMON SLIME BABIES!"
Several parents joined the crowd upon hearing their children shout these words at a complete stranger. Knowing I had no stories about demon slime babies or sneeze pizzas in my repertoire, I looked at the growing audience of parents, curious joggers and chanting children and made a rash decision. "Okay," I squeaked. "A story about demon slime babies and sneeze pizzas it is."
"AND IT BETTER BE A GOOD ONE!" a child shouted.
This is why I love working with children. They they don't hold back their thoughts and they give instant feedback. Since I identified myself as a storyteller, they expected me to tell an award-winning story about demon slime babies on the spot. And if I so much as failed to entertain or if I allowed one single mind to wander, the children would not only blatantly deliver harsh criticism, but they would walk away.
I was both excited and terrified. On the one hand, storytelling to children of mixed ages in a location where they normally run wild without rules is an ultimate challenge. On the other hand, spontaneously writing and performing a story in front of a large group of potential clients in a brand new market is risky.
The only way to improve my skills as a storyteller is to do uncomfortable things and take risks.
To my relief, I whipped out a story (complete with audience participation) that engaged the children. (Phew!) I know my story about demon slime babiesand sneeze pizzas was not my best. However, as the children's faces lit up and smiles crossed their lips, I saw that this storytelling experience was magical to them (and as I floated away on a cloud of accomplishment, I realized that this storytelling experience was equally magical to me.)
The seed of this tale is that you must take risks in order to spread magic and feel magical! Are you taking enough risks in your life?