Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Memory Boxes

For most school age children and adolescents, a huge fear is forgetting the memories of a loved one who has died.  This is true for everyone, but children especially need a place to keep those memories safe.  One of my favorite activities is creating a box especially for those precious memories.  This gives the child some control and facilitates a time in extreme sadness to smile, laugh and enjoy the life that was lost through story telling.

Memory boxes can be as easy as finding a cardboard box and creating a collage of pictures, letters, magazine cut-outs and other precious items to make it personal.  Another idea is to buy a shadow box that can be displayed in the home or in the child's room after it is completed.  Here are some simple examples I found when searching pinterest.

The most important thing to remember is that the child should be in charge of their own box and allowed to use creativity to process the death through the activity.  If pictures and items are not available, pieces of paper can be used to write down individual memories or stories.  The best part of creating a memory box is that it can be added to any time a new memory comes to mind or a new trinket is discovered.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Children and funerals

This past weekend, I was incredibly honored to attend a funeral that was beautiful, painful, sad and joyful.  As an adult I experienced so many emotions that overwhelmed my body and my senses.  This experience is not one that is foreign to most adults and often requires planning and preparation.  I prepared my mind for the sadness I would experience and I prepared my heart in hopes of being an emotional support to a dear friend. 

No one wants to go to a funeral.  It's not something scheduled in our weekly agenda, but we go. Despite intense feelings of despair, sadness, anger, guilt or fear--we clear our schedules to attend.  The idea is really quite bizarre.  Many adults run from these feelings and certainly do not encourage their presence in daily life.

So then why do we attend an event that is sure to bring intense, undesirable emotions in a society consumed with comfort and tranquility?  Closure.  The opportunity to say goodbye.  It is essential for us to experience these terrible emotions so that we can remember the good times and keep those precious memories close.  

If, as adults, we need those opportunity to say goodbye, why do we insist on withholding that same opportunity from children?  Fear?  Intense love?  Desire to protect?  But the truth is that children, of an appropriate developmental age, need and deserve the same opportunity to say goodbye.  This can be a difficult concept and our society works so hard to protect children from these intense feelings, but it is essential to promote emotional development and understanding.

When someone close to a child dies it is important that the child has an opportunity to say goodbye and is given developmentally appropriate answers to questions that may arise.  It cannot always be a parent or caregiver providing this support, but it should be a designated adult who can be a stable figure throughout, someone who feels comfortable answering questions as they are presented.

Parents, you are the expert on your child and you must make the decision when the situation presents itself.  My wish is that you would have the resources you need to support your child and not make a stressful experience worse.  With that in mind, my next few posts will provide some research on this topic, different therapeutic activities that can be helpful, useful resources and things to expect when children experience loss.  I hope you never need it, but if you do I hope it helps.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Choosing Toys for your Child

Imagine your two year old found paint and a paint brush in your house.  He brings it over to the kitchen table along with a piece of paper and starts to open up each of the paints.  He then proceeds to dip the paint brush into each color to get the ful array on his brush and starts on his masterpiece.

As you read that scenario you probably had one of three reactions...
A.  My child would NEVER find paints in my house
B.  I can feel the anxiety overtaking me and I have developed a small twitch just thinking about it
C.  Good for him, at least he climbed up to the table first

Which one are you?

 If you most closely identify with A or B, I have great news that is often not discussed in the world of play.  If there is a specific toy or activity that causes you to have a small panic attack at the thought of it, it probably should never come through the front door.  This is the great thing about parenting, you are in charge and you can decide what play items are welcome in your play space.  Having items that cause you stress are not a good idea because your child will sense that stress and play will become a burden.

Instead have a variety of toys and activities that you are comfortable with and even excited to engage in so that your child can have the freedom to explore and create without a fear of doing something wrong.  This will allow for a peaceful home and a child who is constantly learning in a stress free play space.

Once in awhile, though, it's good to try something new and even something anxiety producing...we do it all the time.  If we didn't there would be no sky diving, books that are impossible to put down, trees climbed and far less children brought into this world.  Without paint, you can't get wonderful pieces of art that show growth, experience and adventure.

So remember, you choose the toys that don't bring anxiety into your home, you're the parent.  And that choice will allow your child the freedom to explore and learn in a calm environment.  But don't let fear stop you from experiencing good things (or just wait till kindergarten, they'll get to paint there!)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

4 Months

4 months of pregnancy have changed my life in more ways I could ever imagine.  Who would have thought that growing out could be so exciting and that strangers wondering if I am pregnant or just oddly fat would ever be ok.

I have been absolutely blessed to have a fairly stress free pregnancy.  Recently I have been eating a healthy dose of clementine oranges and root beer floats.  I could not ask for more support in my sister and best friend who are both pregnant with me.  And my current situation has allowed me to constantly enjoy the flexibility of yoga pants and leggings!  

Here's to the next 5 months preparing to meet this little person! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Freedom Tour 2013

2013 will be a hard one to beat.  We didn't plan the freedom tour when we started but after writing a bucket list of adventures in January, we figured why not.  We didn't know when kids would come and had worked hard to save up money so 2013 was chosen as the year to play.  It was perfect timing and the memories will last a lifetime.

Freedom Tour 2013 looked a little like this...a trip to Pasadena with my best to celebrate her birthday

Beer and baseball at Harbor Park

DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival

San Antonio for Fiesta

Denver for the Child Life Conference

Charlottesville for my birthday

Sandbridge with the fam

Arlington to celebrate life

Charleston for our anniversary

Concerts at the amphitheater 

Williamsburg....sometimes just for our favorite restaurant, Food for thought

A little fishing

And wrapped it up with a big trip to PA

Now we are ready to welcome 2014 and the new adventures coming our way!