As a child therapist I feel extremely fortunate to be in the presence of children, as many of them have a sense of humor, joy and pure curiosity about each moment…
During this current time of uncertainty they continue to be such treasures to me, revealing the importance of presence and living from the heart. As their world has been shifted radically during the virus they continue to keep smiling and laughing. The virus may be impacting daily life in radical ways, yet they are still climbing trees, communicating with wildlife and rolling in the grass.
While childhood can be a time of immense discovery, it can also be one of hardship, struggle and conflict. Developmentally, the sense of self appears slowly, which can bring confusion and misunderstanding. The children in the stories below are some of my greatest teachers, as through their journeys from challenges to insight many truths were illuminated. Each story, although unique, illustrates hope in overcoming difficulties and growing from struggle. I cherish these words of wisdom. As we navigate life during the virus, these words, more than ever, feel relevant to share. As Rumi so beautifully states, “The wound is the place where the Light enters”.
Molly, aged nine, after many house moves due to being part of a military family, was again in a new environment. The grief around friendship loss and rapid changes left her frustrated and overwhelmed. Molly’s parents were concerned about angry outbursts at home that were challenging the entire family. But as Molly began to process her feelings, a new awareness of them grew. As she learned ways to manage her frustrations she was able to reconcile her multiple losses, until eventually, with more confidence in herself, she was able to be ay ease in her new home. She began to keep a journal, in which she wrote: “Just because you are saying goodbye doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. Flip the page and take a breath.”
Like Molly, Brandon age eight, had experienced many recent transitions, but these were in the form of his family structure changing through divorce and, at the same time, a new baby brother being born. His reaction was complete overwhelm. Disinterested in things that used to give him joy, Brandon’s parents were concerned about his low energy levels and inability to pay attention. Over time, using art and the sand tray, he began to express his internal world, his overwhelm, confusion, and sadness. He started to voice the ways he was caring for himself. He told me: “When I am sad I go outside and breathe out my sadness to the trees, as they take it away for me.” He also started to find joy again through musical expression, specifically drumming. One day he picked up the drum and began to play, while saying “ I am finding my beat again, I am finding my rhythm, being here now, being here now”.
Dakoda, age ten, began play therapy after experiencing anxiety at school. Recent visits to the school nurse for tummy aches and calls home had her parents unsure how to help her. They recalled Dakoda mentioning a “bullying” situation that seemed to occupy her. In session, she initially related to the dolls and stuffed animals by using words like “stupid” or “worthless”. Over time, as her sadness expressed itself, her window of tolerance expanded and she started to care for both the toys and for herself with greater kindness. One day, while drawing a picture of a heart, she looked at me with immense conviction and said: “You gotta just shine your light, regardless of what other people think; just be who you are”.
Life is a journey of many ups and downs, and each of these children, like all of us in one way or another, has experienced struggles, but they are my true teachers for their courage to show up and embrace the challenges. Their ability to transform and evolve their perception of traumatic experiences and of themselves is inspiring, showing me that we have everything we need within us.