This gorgeous little man, Ethan, has many health challenges, but he is bright as a button. He has a smile that lights up the whole universe and he is full of chat. I absolutely love the things he comes up with, especially his views about the world: always upbeat, wise beyond his years and sometimes frustrated with adults.
He has no challenges mentally and emotionally despite his many visits and stays at the hospital (don’t you just love that smile?)
Other children, however, struggle where Ethan the Batman sparkles.
My child psychologist friend, who is an advisor for this book, has a 6-year-old patient who is cripplingly shy and withdrawn, and who would not speak to strangers or look at them in the eye. Going to school was such a huge trauma for him that his parents took him out of school completely. But this little guy is transformed the minute he puts on his Spiderman mask! He becomes chatty and vivacious in his Spiderman persona, talking animatedly about everything under the sun, about his own grievances, fears, sense of injustice to diverse topics such as why the person who created countries did the wrong thing. His psychologist would let him rabbit on, and then artfully draw him from behind the mask by saying, “Can I borrow your Spiderman mask, because I want to tell you things?” Wearing the Spiderman mask, the 38-year-old psychologist would talk on a peer-to-peer level with his 6-year-old patient, who would reply back in kind, quite forgetting that he is now no longer wearing the mask! In this way, the child is weaned from his hiding place organically and with gentleness and kindness.
Toni de Coninck, father of a special child and author of De Windvanger (The Wind Tower) says, getting them to communicate about their feelings and what they are going through inside their heads is so very important.
How to begin the dialogue? From my own experience (30 years as a parent!) I find that storytelling and role-playing are successful modalities in engaging children who are perhaps emotionally inaccessible. VIGGO And His Special Blankie has two main characters in the story which have opposing personalities. In the section of the book for parents, teachers and caregivers, one of the suggested activities is role-playing. That’s working from Outside-In, as promoted in this book.
Who are you today, The Monster or The Unicorn? Oh, you’re the Unicorn! Hello beautiful Unicorn. How are you? I am happy to see you. Can we please be friends? What do you like to eat? Do you know, eating sprouts make unicorn horns grow even stronger!
I hear unicorns are afraid of (whatever the child has a fear for). Oh dear! Can we talk about it, because I am afraid of them too? Should we see what we can do together?
This lovely (and warm) unicorn hoodie is designed by Keri Palbicki. You can find the pattern here. I want one too!!! (Because we must never lose our capacity for enchantment).