Bright and happy activities for children after tragedy strikes

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.

IMG_0683

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.

Emmy's crayons

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.

Emmy's sensory table

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.

image

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.

Lots of love and an extra magical hug,

Picture 3

 

Custom tales for you by Emmy Blue!

Are you looking for a unique gift? Emmy Blue offers custom written magical tales staring you, your child, your family or your friends!

DSC00402

This exclusive package includes a digital and a hard copy of your one-of-a-kind story and illustration as well as post cards, bookmarks and magical stones.  

DSC00404

Writing and polishing the perfect 1,000-2,500 word tale and illustration can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Emmy Blue will send the story via email for you to proofread as soon as it's finished. (As with all of her programs, satisfaction is 110% guaranteed.)

DSC00400

Interested? Contact Emmy Blue at emmy(at)emmyblue(dot)com with any questions and your time frame. The only thing needed to start the writing process is for you to fill out a brief questionnaire and e-mail a current photograph of the child. Then Emmy Blue uses her unique method to create the perfect story!

This gift will surely make your child feel like the magical shining star he or she truly is!

 

Writing tales to tell

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.

3.) Pen-to-paper.

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!

Happy tales to you! Lots of love! Xx

Telling tales with paint, not words

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-- Paint the 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

Lots of love from the snowy enchanted tree house,