Archive for January 2012
Sometimes when we talk to our children they don’t listen. It may seem like a lot of the time in fact.
As a child therapist I am used to slipping into the language of children to engage them in conversation and pull from them their strength. They are engaged easily through their active imagination with play and story. They learn from watching and doing.
However admittedly I sometimes forget as a parent to use this child speak. This often happens when I am trying to do so many things and when I am so task focused and in my adult head. I forget that my children are not in that same head space and are driven by other motivators like play, having fun, enjoying life. The usual kid stuff.
What would happen if more adults were focused on having fun?
Luckily because my kids are so play driven, I can’t help but be reminded of their need to have this outlet. They are constantly trying to engage me in play so I am reminded of a different way of being in my head, namely through my creative imagination. When I am in this space it’s as if we are doing a wonderfully intricate dance where everyone is in rhythm with each other. Cooperation is not a struggle but a fun game where both players are winners.
I cherish those moments knowing that I have access to them any time I choose. It’s these moments that make the hard work of parenting worth it. It’s these moments that give me the clarity to communicate in my child’s mother tongue: play.
Sorting through and tidying up my computer files I came across a letter I had written for my youngest son from the voice of a small (bean bag) bear cub which I gave him. To put it in context, I will tell you that my son was having some difficulty doing his daily routines and was needing much encouragement and reminders. Also at the time he would rather stay home than go play at a friend’s place. I knew that he was feeling like he couldn’t do things as well as his brother. Anyway, though these were things that we talked with him about, there is something about stories that sparks the interest of a child to “listen” on a deeper level. With this in mind I share with you the letter below.
I just want to let you know that I am a black bear cub, and I am mostly vegetarian. I am still little but big enough to do things like swim across the lake (like that bear cub your mom told me you guys saw last year while camping). I heard we have a lot in common like your mom said that you like to forage for wild edibles and I love foraging for berries. I have been to Crab lake too just for the blue berries- I heard you like them too. One thing you should know about black bear cubs is that we stick with our moms a lot but we also venture out to explore new things. We are good swimmers, climbers, foragers (and your mom wanted me to mention that we almost always listen to our mamma bears- because they keep us safe). I have come to live with you so that I can learn some things about camping (my mom said I can visit her when you take me wilderness camping). I heard that you are a great portager- that is something I have never done before. Will you teach me? Your mom also told me that you like to help out at camp and you have a great smile. I am so excited that I will be living with you!
Lots of love,
Your bear cub friend
(Bears don’t have names like humans do- but my mom said it was okay if you gave me a human name)
What does your child speak look like?
The other day I came across a post on prayer flags which lead to my finding out about a prayer flag project. I liked the idea of letting our intentions for the world sway in the breeze, releasing it for all to witness.
For the Winter Solstice our family did a releasing ceremony where each of us wrote down what we wanted to let go of from the past year as we move into the next. For New Years I wanted the focus to be on the positive, sending out our wishes our intentions not just for ourselves but for the world. I wanted my boys to remember that they have the power to change the world, I wanted them to feel this by putting an action to their wishes and hopes for the world. And so we made prayer flags.
I explained to them that prayer flags are a way of putting your hopes for the world in a visual format, to share with others. I explained that they could have their prayer flag be about anything they wanted to wish for to happen in the world to make it a better place.
Immediately my eldest had an idea and began to work on his, while my youngest was doubtful that he would be able to express his on a flag. I talked him through his ideas asking him of what pictures he thought of when he thought of his wish for the world. This helped him. Below is a step by step Tutorial of how you can make a prayer flag with your family.
Here’s how you can make prayer flags with your family:
Gather your materials:
- a rectangular piece of cloth approximately 5″ x 11″ ( 3 of the 11″ will be folded over for a string to go through). We used old cloth napkins that I had and cut them to size.
- permanent markers, acrylic paints – the tackier (thick) paint works best, or fabric crayons
- flat Styrofoam tray that sometimes comes with produce (if you are doing a print like we did)
- pencil for drawing then etching (if you are making a print)
- glue gun or sewing needle and thread to make the fold that the string will go through.
Explain to your children what a prayer flag is: Keep it simple for younger children such as “a prayer flag is a way to share with the world your hope for something good you want to happen in the world”. For older children you may want to explain the origins of the prayer flag such as is done on the Creativity in Motion blog by Art Therapist Gretchen Miller. You don’t have to hold any particular religious beliefs to use prayer flags, it’s all about sending out your positive intentions for the world.
Have your children choose one focus, one positive thing that they would like to happen in the world. Have them focus on what they want rather than what they don’t want to happen in the world. So for example when my youngest spoke of his concern for climate change and the polar bears, and penguins having little ice to stay on, he visualized a picture of polar bears with a lot of ice, and penguins with lots of ice. In the end he chose to draw only the penguins.
Prepare the cloth by ironing it flat if there are wrinkles.
Fold over 1 1/2″ of the cloth & sew or glue down just the outer edge so that a sting can fit through it. Becareful of little fin gers the glue guns can get quite hot. Tip: there are low heat glue guns that are less hot but you have to work quicker.
Now have your child draw picture symbolizing their wish for the world:
They can do this several ways, free hand on the square with fabric crayons , or permanent markers or for a print have them emboss it into into the styrofoam.
Cut the edges off of the styrofoam tray so that it will be flat.
For younger children or to avoid disappointment with their picture, have your child draw it on paper the same size as your flag first and then either trace it from this drawing or have them copy it by etching it in.
To make a print its easiest to use one colour though you can try more than one. The etched in parts will not show paint when you make the print.
Flip and press evenly into the fabric. You can test your home made stamp on paper to see how it looks.
Make sure that if they want to write any words in the styrofoam tray that they write them backwards so that in a mirror you could read it (we forgot to do this).
Another way to make a print is to paint the picture on a piece of paper and press the paper onto the fabric, the trick is to use thicker acrylic paint and make the print before the paint dries (do not wet the brush or it waters the paint down too much for transferring the print). You can always add more paint, and draw or write with with permanent marker any additional embellishments after adding the print.
Once the flags are done and dry, put a string through the flags (a safety pin attached to a string and pushed through works well) and hang outside where it can blow in the wind, spreading your intentions for the world.
We would love to see what other families are making. If you like, you can post your family prayer flag photos on the Offbeatfamily Prayer Flag Flicker Group.