How to Introduce it – This works best while engaged in another activity. Driving to school, going for a walk, eating dinner, brushing teeth etc. Use spontaneously and curiously, without any expectations.
How to do it – Asking questions about how your child is feeling, what they think about something or what they did today can often be met with resistance, blank stares or a feeling of intrusion. Using fun, made up scenarios can help your child let down their guard and not consciously have to connect to their feelings. Although their answers can tell you a lot about how they are feeling as well as build safety and connection. Be prepared to have a creative answer of your own to each question you ask….you can ask one or two more qualifying questions afterwards if the child is responding well but don’t overdo it.
Here are a few examples:
- ‘What animal do you chose to be today?’ As you are dropping them off to school or getting ready in the morning.
If they answer, you can say ‘oh, good choice, what is your favorite thing about that animal?’ or you can put a feeling to it and ask if they are a happy ‘crocodile’ or ‘is that crocodile kind of angry today?’ etc. ‘That’s okay to be angry, the crocodile must be careful not bite anyone though. Maybe he will be a happy crocodile tomorrow?’
If they don’t have an answer or they ask you for yours then you can tell them your chosen animal and why. ‘ I think I’m going to be an armadillo……and you can make it silly with a funny voice/face or a more serious answer. ‘ I feel like a bear today because I like how much they get to sleep in the winter and I’m so tired. They can also be a bit grumpy and so can I but they take really good care of their cubs and always keep them safe’
This question works with any category that the child may have an interest in and some knowledge about ….cars, dinosaurs, food etc.
- If you could have any super power what would you want to have?
- Would you like to live in a cottage in the countryside or a mansion in the city? Some of these will allow you to build some stories around but follow the child’s lead on this. If they stare at you and say ‘why’ or you are weird. Just shrug it off with a smile and say you were just curious.
Some of these questions will simply be a conversation opener, help the child to relax and let them know that you want to know things about them and won’t judge the answers. Some of the questions may lead you to get a lot of insight into your child’s thoughts. For example, if they choose a tiny bug and say it has to hide in corners so nobody can see it or squish it, this tells you the child is feeling vulnerable and unsafe. Or if they say they would love to be a tiger (or other powerful, magnificent animal) and then say but they could never be that animal and choose a toad instead; it implies they may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful!
Vicky Wallace, Play and Expressive Arts Therapist