Some Bunny to Talk to: A Story About Going to Therapy

Check out this fantastic book resource for kids in therapy! Some Bunny to Talk to: A Story About Going Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 1.38.04 PMto Therapy by Cheryl Sterling, Paola Conte, and Larissa Labay (Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke) provides for a gentle and easy to understand introduction to therapy. Filled with colorful illustrations, the book covers feelings of worry, sadness, anxiety, while also explaining who a therapist is, what they do, and how they can help. Some Bunny to Talk to does a great job showing how therapy can be a positive and helpful experience. In addition, the book has a section at the end that provides notes to parents and caregivers on how to pave the way for a positive therapy experience. The book can be found at your local library, or it is also available on Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/Some-Bunny-To-Talk-Therapy/dp/1433816504

Bunny Collage

Communication Icebreakers for Kids

Communication Icebreakers for Kids Image

Communication Icebreakers for Kids

Communication with your child is crucial. Keeping an open line of communication between you and your child keeps you informed on what is going on in their life, their friendships, and also increases the likelihood that your child will come to you for advice when they have a conflict or are in a dilemma. While this information is helpful, getting children to talk is not always an easy task, especially when a communication disorder is present.

Communication is not always easy, and talking about more serious or intimate topics does not just roll off the tongue. Reaching a more intimate level with your child requires time and practice talking together. Here are a few simple and easy DIY icebreaker activities to open up dialog and start to get children talking. With these communication icebreakers, you can work on getting to know your children better, practice conversation starters, and start building the foundation for a deeper, more intimate relationship.

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Talk Toss

The first icebreaker is called Talk Toss, and is a very simple, and portable activity that could be played virtually anywhere. Here is what you will need:Talk Toss Materials

  • 1 ball (of any size)
  • 10 strips of paper (more or less is fine)
  • writing utensil
  • 1 die
  • timer/clock

On each strip of paper write down a topic. Make sure to include both light and fun topics, as well as heavier or more intimate topics. This step can also be done with the child, and may make the child more receptive to playing if they have a choice in what some of the topics are. If your child wants to help write down topics, split the pile in half so each person can come up with topics. Another important note is to keep the topics vague. More specific topics can corner the conversation, limiting movement (for example: “Favorite Colors” would be hard to talk about for 6 minutes). After all the topics have been chosen, fold them and put them in a bucket or bowl.

Talk Toss Materials 2

Some examples of possible light topics include:

Favorite movies

School

Music

Hobbies

Sports

Places to visit

Video games

Fashion

Examples of possible heavy/intimate topics include:

School

Achievements/things I’m good at

Conflicts

Things that make me sad

Things that make me happy

Relationships

How the game works:

Each person will take turns picking a topic, and rolling the die. The number on the die will determine how long to set the timer. Once the timer is started, each person will take turns tossing (or rolling when working will younger children or children with gross motor limitations) the ball, but with each toss, the person has to say something about himself or herself that relates to the topic chosen. This turn-taking continues until the timer goes off. Play until all the topics are finished or a certain amount of time is reached. Depending on what number is rolled on the die, 10 topics could result in a 30-60 minute game.

Helpful Hints:

As parents, it is important to channel your own experiences. If the goal is to reach more intimate conversation, you will have to be more vulnerable with your answers as well. For example (with school as the topic), “At school I was really good at math” is not as provoking as, “At school I didn’t have a lot of friends.” With practice this game can invoke more honest and “authentic” answers from your child. However, if they do not reciprocate right away, do not panic. Opening up requires being vulnerable and requires trust – both of which require time. If the child feels pressured or rushed to open up, the opposite of what is desired may occur. A slow and sincere approach will usually yield the best results. An additional benefit to this game is that it is flexible, and can be played almost anywhere. A small bouncy ball, a Ziplock bag, and a cell phone (for a timer) can easily fit in a purse or carry-on bag to be utilized in a waiting room, airport, or in the grocery store.

Grab and Gab

Grab and Gab is another communication icebreaker that can be made for very cheap, and can be played with several players, or just two! Materials needed include:

  • Jumbling Tower puzzle game (can be found on Amazon.com for as little as $9)
  • Permanent marker
  • Tape labels (optional – will allow the blocks to be changed in the future)

Jenga Materials 2

Take all of the blocks in the game, and divide them equally into any number of piles (it is okay if they are not exactly equal; Usually 6-8 piles is sufficient). If using tape, apply a strip of tape to one side of each block. For each pile, come up with a starter sentence. You will be writing this sentence on the block (or the tape). Some example starter sentences can be:

If I could be any animal I would be …

I feel happiest when ….

I feel nervous when …

Things that make me happy are…

I often think about …

My favorite quote is …

Jenga Materials 1

How the game works:

Once all the starter sentences are written on the blocks (or the tape), the game is played just like the original Jumbling Tower instructions (see the instructions included in the game), only the player has to finish the sentence on the block they choose before they place it back into the puzzle. An alternative version of the game is to have one player pick the block, and the opposite player (or player to the left if playing with more than two people) has to finish the sentence. This alternative method will be helpful if the child starts to memorize which blocks contain certain sentences, and starts to strategically pick or avoid certain blocks.

Helpful Hints:

This game is very similar to the Talk Toss icebreaker. It is important to have a good mixture of light/fun sentences and heavy/intimate sentences, and it is important that the child does not feel forced into starting the game off by saying something they do not feel comfortable sharing. The goal is to make the child feel comfortable, and that comes with time and practice. If the deck is stacked too heavy, you will not get the results you want. Be aware that some questions (for example, “If I could be any animal I would be…”) may lead to more personal or intimate answers than expected. Do not assume that a light sentence answer is irrelevant. An answer of “… a bear because they get to hide away in a cave for 9 months and not talk to anyone,” tells more about a child’s internal emotional state than “… a monkey because they get to eat bananas and I love bananas!” Sometime the answer can have more meaning, and sometimes the answer is just straightforward. It’s important to be listening to the answer, and really trying to understand what the child is telling you. The main goal of the game is to learn how to communicate, and that includes active listening. (For more important information on effective communication and listening, see my previous post ‘Tips for Improved Communication’ here.)

If the starter sentences start to get routine, or you think of new starter sentences you would love to add, you can always change up the sentences. It’s always a great option to include the child in creating starter sentences.

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These two communication icebreakers are a great way to start practicing dialog between parent and child, and to reach a more intimate level of communication. The icebreaker games can be played for fun, or during more serious moments, and can be played almost anywhere! Remember, the most important part is that the activity is fun, relaxing, and not forced! Oh, and do not forget to listen! If you are not getting the answer you want right away, that’s okay. It takes time and practice! Do not rush the experience, and the results will be rewarding.   Stay tuned for more interventions and icebreakers!

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nessaVanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This blog (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) is for informational and educational purposes only. No therapist-client relationship arises. The information provided and any comments or opinions expressed are intended for general discussion and education only, even when based on a hypothetical. They should not be relied upon for ultimate decision-making in any specific case. There is no substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health specialist, or even a physician, who could best evaluate and advice based on a careful, considered evaluation of all pertinent facts. Likewise, it is understood that no guarantee or warranty arises from the information provided or discussed on this (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) blog.

Helpful Halloween Tips for Children with Special Needs

 Halloween Tips Image

Helpful Halloween Tips for Children with Special Needs

 

Prepare Early.

Preparing early for the holiday can make or break the event. Gather books, create social stories, look at pictures, and even practice a trial run to prepare for the experience. Books that explain what the holiday is about are helpful, and social stories can help provide a child with expectations for their own experience. Preparing early will also provide time to practice and gain confidence with different social exchanges that can be expected during trick-or-treating. Once everyone is feeling very confident, try a trial run of the day by getting dressed up and visiting the neighbors (with their cooperation, of course).

 

Carving Alternatives.

Carving pumpkins can provide an amazing sensory experience with the different squishy and slimy textures on the inside, however there are other fun options that provide for a safe, knife-free pumpkin experience. Instead of traditional pumpkin carving, try painting and decorating pumpkins instead! This fun alternative allows for a full range of creativity, and keeps little hands away from sharp tools. Plus, painting a pumpkin may be an easier task for a child with fine motor challenges. Check out these crafty designs from CraftBerryBush.com, InLieuofPreschool.com, PlaySational.com, and TheHappierHomemaker.com. (Links to their websites can be found at the bottom of the article.)

 Pumpkins

Create an Emergency Kit.

Be prepared, and create a mini-emergency kit that can fit in a child’s trick-or-treat basket. In a quart-sized Zip-lock bag, gather a flashlight, identification card, whistle, small snack, calming object, and a small map of the neighborhood. This small kit can be hidden in a candy bag, and will come in handy in case of an emergency.

 

Designate a Walking Buddy.

Make sure to find a walking buddy! Finding a trick-or-treating veteran who is familiar with the neighborhood or who has experience trick-or-treating to partner with is another great option for any kid who is having hesitations about the holiday. Having a friend to walk with can provide an extra boost of confidence without feeling like a parent is hovering too much!

 

Do a Trial Run.

Practicing a run-through can also catch any last minute costume alterations that need to be made. Is the costume comfortable? Is it functional? Does the child feel confident wearing the costume? Remember, wearing the costume at home, and wearing the costume out in public can be two entirely different experiences. It’s more important for the child to enjoy the experience, than to struggle through the day with the perfect costume. Having a back-up costume that is simple and easy to wear is also a great idea. There are many great costume ideas that can be created using everyday clothes, which may be more comfortable for the child should he/she need a last minute change. Check out a few of these costume ideas at RealSimple.com:

Halloween Pic 1

Use Reflectors.
Depending on where trick-or-treating takes place, reflectors may be an option. If the area is dark, and eloping is a possibly, reflectors can help spot a child that has strayed off the path. Reflectors can be easily sewn into costumes, and can even add to the design! (Maybe they are extra lights added to a cool robot costume!) Glow sticks are also a great alternative that will look cool with any costume, however they shouldn’t be used if there’s a possibility the child may put them in their mouth due to high toxicity.

 

Discuss Candy Management.
For children with diet restrictions, trick-or-treating can be an obstacle. Frankly, for any parent trick-or-treating can be stressful, as children are encouraged to binge-eat mounds of sugary candy. Prepare ahead of time for how the candy will be used. Eating it all in one sitting or whenever a child wants does not have to be an option. Use an old fish bowl or an old canning jar as a reward jar to keep the candy in. Discuss with the child before hand when and how the candy can be earned throughout the week (i.e. Three pieces after homework is completed, two pieces after each chore completed, or two pieces after finishing all of dinner, etc.).   This alternative option still allows for the child to keep all their candy, but prevents them from consuming it all at once. Another great option is to donate the Halloween treats. Many different organizations offer buy back programs where children can bring in their candy as a donation, and receive money in return. There are several great causes available that offer buy back programs: go to www.halloweencandybuyback.com to find a buyback near you, or check out SanDiegoFamily.com for more way to give back Halloween candy: https://www.sandiegofamily.com/things-to-do/seasonal-happenings/1481-12-ways-to-give-back-halloween-candy

 

Create a Back-up Plan.

Create a back-up plan if trick-or-treating does not go as planned. Handing out candy at the house or attending a small Halloween party are both great alternatives if trick-or-treating ends early. Handing out candy at the door is a great way to still participate in the festivities while getting social interaction as well.

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Pumpkin pictures provided by:

Alien: http://www.playsational.com/painted-pumpkin-ideas/

Minion: http://www.craftberrybush.com/2012/10/painted-pumpkinsminions.html

Multi-colored: http://www.inlieuofpreschool.com/a-fun-and-easy-way-to-paint-pumpkins/

Monsters Inc.: http://www.thehappierhomemaker.com/2013/10/monsters-university-crafts-recipe.html

 

 

 

nessa

Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist

vanessalemminger.wordpress.com

 

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This blog (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) is for informational and educational purposes only. No therapist-client relationship arises. The information provided and any comments or opinions expressed are intended for general discussion and education only, even when based on a hypothetical. They should not be relied upon for ultimate decision-making in any specific case. There is no substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health specialist, or even a physician, who could best evaluate and advice based on a careful, considered evaluation of all pertinent facts. Likewise, it is understood that no guarantee or warranty arises from the information provided or discussed on this (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) blog.