The activity I am about to share with you is an activity that was birthed during an art contest I was having with my eight-year-old. Don’t worry. Everyone was a winner! And, my eight-year-old is in possession of the entries.
In my work with clients I am often thinking about resources they need for processing EMDR targets. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of trauma therapy founded by Francine Shapiro. As I began to work on my art contest entry I thought about what I might want practice for creating resources in my sessions. My first one was a bear. It was a pretty cute bear……. for a non-artist. Emphasis on non-artist!
During this process I decided to draw a turtle for the heck of it and began to put the shell pattern on my turtle when an idea was hatched. A turtle shell is pretty heavy and depression is a common experience for my clients. What if each section of the turtle’s shell was something that was “weighing you down” in the form of depression, grief, anxiety, etc.?
For each section on the turtle’s shell, write down something that “weighs you down” emotionally or mentally with a fine tipped permanent marker. After you have written down all the things that feel heavy in your life, or at least what fits on the turtle, reflect on each section. What does this weighty circumstance feel like? Color the section according to how that circumstance makes you feel with a colored pencil. That way you can still see what you wrote through the emotion color.
In my office I use this for various therapeutic reasons. For you, at home, you can use this activity to help your child with emotional awareness and to build their emotional intelligence. Don’t stop at the completion of the activity. Have a conversation with your child about what they wrote down and their feelings about that circumstance. If they need help finding a solution be sure to ask non-leading questions that help them come up with an answer for themselves.
Examples of non-leading questions:
1. What do you think you should do?
2. That sounds really hard. What is like for you?
3. I didn’t know you felt this way. Would you tell me more about what is going on?
4. Is there anything I can do to help?
5. What would you like to do about this?
If something abusive is revealed in the activity or following conversation then you must take action yourself and not leave your child to resolve the problem on their own. If they are not being abused, this is a good way to open the conversation to helping your child solve their own problems when they experience strong emotions. Just like a turtle, the process can be painfully slow.