On 01.02.02, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Too late for surgery, I had chemotherapy, which failed. In May the chemotherapy was changed and I was soon in remission which was celebrated and welcome and lasted nine years - until October 2011. There was progression in 2011 so more treatment was indicated and I am now back in partial remission. But I'm not only a cancer patient - I also enjoy my family, walk my dogs and am learning to draw and paint. Life is good!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life's tapestry

I often work with groups of kids of various ages who have encountered major difficulties in their lives. It may be the girls at Juvenile Hall with innumerable challenges or it may be a group of 10-year olds whose parents are now in the process of divorcing. In either case it seems to work best if I have a structured activity that somehow addresses one aspect of the situation. I have hundreds of projects up my sleeve -- from friends, supervisors, resource materials and sometimes, out of my very own brain. Here's a simple idea I came up with that works very well with different kinds of groups, a variation on paper weaving.

I ask the kids to cut paper one inch wide and several inches long -- at least 8 strips. Let's say the kids are dealing with their parents' divorce. So I ask them to write one aspect on the nonpatterned side of each strip that is either positive or negative. I encourage the kids to think of almost equal positives and negatives. So, in this group, kids may see it as a negative that 1) Our family isn't together anymore 2) I don't know any kids in my dad's neighborhood 3) I have to go back and forth between two houses, etc. On the other hand, 1) The fighting has stopped 2) I get to have two birthday parties 3) I can invite my friends over and know there won't be any yelling.

Then I ask the kids to weave the two groups of strips together. Most of them enjoy this activity -- it is easy, forms an interesting pattern, can be developed into an even more complicated design, etc. I see it as integrative. In my experience one huge aspect of life's traumas is that they are left hanging outside of ourselves, not pulled into our very being. Traumas mess with our ability to sleep, to feel peaceful, to trust and to move forward in pursuit of our own goals. Integrated traumas may leave scar tissue, true, but also offer experience in life that has the capacity for many to deepen and strengthen their understanding of how the world works and what people feel.

When I work with a group of kids I do not interpret the expected outcome. I demonstrate the activity, I help them complete it and I leave room for the project itself to work its own healing.

1 comment:

  1. This is the first time I've commented here (or anywhere related to EDM!) but as a teacher myself, I love this idea. You seem to really understand how to relate to a child going through a rough time. You're making a difference in these kids' lives!


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