A go to in many situations. This story explores well a range of worries a child may have and how it can impact on the child’s life. It opens up discussions about how the child may feel isolated when experiencing all these worries. The end of the story looks at ways to let go of the worries by talking to someone and opening one worry at the time.
This story can lead to different activities with the child such as drawing their worries, naming them and discussing them.
Ironside, V. (1994). The Huge Bag of Worries.
Do you understand the language of the game? How do you know what is happening in the game?
My children, just being children, naively introduced me to a game on the iPad. It was free to download and my oldest was playing with the youngest. They were having fun and I enquired what was going on. “Maman, look, it is so cute, you can grow monsters.” It was indeed cute and funny, and we all got hooked on the game. We all grew habitats, collected gold and grew tomatoes. All together, for a while.
You probably think I am going mad at this point!
I think it happened over a holiday period, so we went all back to more typical routines, the game phased out for them, but I continued to play. I felt it helped me switch off from the outside world and anything going on, some time away from the reality, a bit of an escape.
I got to know the game well and learnt the language of the game. I joined groups on social media trying to find out tactics and strategies. I read lots of posts: some positives and controversial. There was mention of players needing to pay gems during races to get in teams when I had always refused to pay money in the game. There were complaints from parents who were saying their child was kicked out before end of race so they could not get rewards, but they had contributed and done everything they could to stay in the team. I also looked into the global chats in the game. Some language use was pretty atrocious, with some evidence of racism, homophobia and sexism and many players asking people in charge of the game to do something about this and take actions. I was there to play the game so I did not bother too much about that, but I was glad that I had an insight into the game as a parent.
Being part of an active team helps you through the game
Races were tougher because I was not part of a great team. I then encouraged my husband to join to help with team races. We were able to share something and discuss tactics to develop the game. We were still not evolving and there was not much spirit so it made it difficult to qualify for races and more interesting rewards. He left the team and found another much more active and fun team. His game evolved and mine stayed behind. I became frustrated about his evolution in the game and rewards so I convinced him to get me in his team. As a co-leader, he was allowed to invite me in. Yes, better leadership, more camaraderie, more play, more rewards. It was promising and running smoothly. The game was evolving nicely.
The team was great but some players were still not putting their effort in. As a team game, where all need to contribute to earn rewards, it became frustrating again. The leader started to become more absent. Co-leaders tried to recruit as much as they can at the end of each race and wars to try to replace the ones who were not contributing. I asked one of the co-leaders if my children could join the team. They all had an account. I explained this would allow team race to run more smoothly as we would be able to contribute more promptly.
Sharing the game with the children
Although I had some concerns about some conversations in the global chats, the team chat was always positive and amicable. I did not have concerns there. I was also there to support their game and chat when needed.
Children started to play again. There was a great sense of effervescence in the house. We were all talking about the game. Children got excited they could get great rewards. We started to all play as a team, discuss strategies, help one and another out. It was great to see them all enjoy gaming together. When they game, they often play separate games which is not ideal for socialisation and sharing experiences so I was really pleased about this. One of them started to write messages in the chat room, I was able to keep an eye on context and responses, so it was all going well. I was able to coach them into what they should say or not. Doing this together was brilliant! We were able to talk the ‘same language’, share something, show each other progress in the game and help each other out. They taught me a few things or two, like abbreviations in chat room, which I had no clue about! It felt as it brought us together. We were talking the same language, sharing time playing together.
Creating some team rules for fair gaming
The more active players decided it would be a good idea to create a set of rules so that players coming in the team know what we do. The team did not want to associate with players and teams requiring paying for gems, but we also wanted players to know they must contribute to wars and races, and long-term no participation has consequences on all players. Basically, some players were not participating and waiting for rewards to be collected, which is not fair on players overall. The leader had been very absent and his participation was questioned. Active players then took actions to plan next steps. It felt it was unfair on all players for leader to not be present and contributing. Options were discussed like co-leadership, but as the team was his, it was difficult to decide anything else. Amongst all of this, there was a discussion about compulsory participation to a gaming app so that all players would know strategic actions. I then stepped in and I explained that as we have children in the team, I did not feel this should be a rule. It seemed too complicated and unpractical for children to part of another chat room. I was cautious, I did not like the fact it was away from the game, it appeared more intrusive. However, all conversations in that app had been fine so far…
Pressure on others can go too far
Discussions with the leader evolved further. Many active players decided it was enough. The leader did not seem to understand the point. Angrily, he eventually decided to step down to be a co-lead, which meant the leadership was handed over to another player (all players can be kicked out, but the leader). By stepping down the leader was promised amenity and protection from being kicked out of the team. The ex-leader then decided he wanted his team back and started harassing people. There was an argument with another player. The ex-leader now co-leader kicked out the other player and this created even more fury because the player was losing all rewards from war. The ex-leader started to be abusive to other players and sending private messages. There were arguments with lots of abusive language. The next day, a message was received from someone we did not know asking whether he could have his friend’s team back. He explained that his friend (the ex-leader) had committed suicide the night before and he had said he was upset about losing his team before the incident…
It was all a hoax! The ex-leader was tracked down having been active on social media, and was found to have created another team. It shows to what extent people are prepared to go to pressurise others in such a negative way. Thankfully, my children were not part of these messages. I had protected them by saying “no” to the other chat app.
Do you play with your children? Do you know what games they play? Do you understand the language of the game? Do you keep an eye on how safe the game is?
I am writing all of this because I would like to raise awareness amongst parents. With an insight now into gaming, I find it fascinating the social pressure, language use and gaming behaviours. I am also cautious that children need to be protected from some of this material and conversations as it could cause emotional reactions. Unless you were fully involved in the game, you would not know to what extent it is a safe online environment.
Let’s face it, online gaming will not go away, technology is here to stay, so let’s learn and play…with our children…and teach them skills to deal with these situations.
Let’s embrace playing together and sharing what is happening online. With boundaries, coaching and a safe online environment, it can be fun to share online experiences!
The decision was made, we were moving to Australia! Overwhelmed and excited, I did all the research I could imagine to see if this move was possible in terms of my career. I had worked very hard to complete my doctorate so it was not an option to not continue my work in this field. Initial research looked promising, different search engines revealed employment prospect so I felt reassured about possibilities. When I arrived in Australia, the reality kicked in and the registration became a maze for the crazy ones like in Asterix. You do something, but need to do something else before, but you cannot the first thing before you do 2 and 3. I then tried to turn to support but no one I knew I had been through this and support out there seemed limited. I started writing posts about my despair on my global migration blog/website. My posts travelled and reached many. A group was created on Facebook, UK/Overseas psychologists in Australia, with two other psychologists from the UK. The group has been helpful to many and continues to be today.
Find further information at pascaleparadis.org and posts related to…
There are many other posts about global migration too.
around 45 texts overall…
There is no doubt that having a few resources that spark a conversation and interest facilitate engagement when working with children. There are different slime recipes and types to buy in shops. With lots of experiments, this is my favourite recipe. It is more chunky and together, not liquid at all. It can be a great starter for a session with a child, alternatively, it can be a real treat for the end of session, or a resource to calm and sooth throughout the session…
500 ml of PVA glue
a cup of warm water
500 ml shaving cream
5 pumps of foaming hand soap
one squirt of baby powder
5 pumps of body lotion
1 teaspoon of borax
Bowl and spoon
Food colouring and sparkling glitter (optional)
Pour the glue in the bowl
Fill each bottle of glue half way with cold water
Mix it until all combined
Put the shaving cream in
Mix it up
Put food colouring in (optional)
Add foaming hand soap, body lotion and baby powder
Mix it all in
In a different cup, add some warm water. Put the borax in and mix up until all the borax is dissolved to create the borax mixture.
Put three teaspoons of the borax mixture into the slime bowl and mix.
It is probably not yet formed but keep on adding the borax mixture until the slime is no longer sticky.
Enjoy! Some ideas with the slime…
To create engaging conversations, put in boxes and add some little creatures in the box. Ask the child to find the little creatures.
Add slime in balloons to create sensory and self-soothing objects. The more robust types of balloons will last longer. By leaving some air and space in the balloon, it creates sounds when playing with it, like pops.
Play with the slime, poke it, make bubbles with it, fold it…express how it feels, describe actions.
Change its textures by adding play foam or loom bands to make it more crunchy. Change the colour or add sparkling glitter to make it different.
I have recently been in touch with a number of early career psychologists about to embark a journey of working in schools. They were asking advice about top tips and preferred resources. Over the years, I have built resources I use on a regular basis so I thought I would take the time to write down what I could call ‘my essential toolkit’.
Getting to know each other, Being together, Enjoying time together
Time spent ‘being together and enjoying time together’ is valuable when working with children and young people. For some children and adolescents, it can take a few sessions to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts. Asking what is their favourite activities, interests and hobbies always consist of a first session activity. I tend to use a blank page and draw a mind map of the child’s likes, dislikes, being good at, needing help with. This way the session is co-constructed and not necessarily pre-planned. Children learn that what is on paper is all their ideas, feelings and thoughts. Some formats are available on on-line in the name of ‘All About Me’ or ‘One Page Profile’ for ideas. I personally like better the blank page as it often becomes a cooperative activity where the child draws too.
To promote enjoyment and fun, I have a bag of different tools that have become particularly important in building a relationship with children. These toys are carefully chosen to create a positive reaction and emotion, and encourage dialogue. In many situations, talking about the toys and experience of playing have led to opening a discussion about interests, hobbies, school, home, etc. These tools are also important to help children return to the next session and feel happy knowing they will se you again. My essentials are:
Cards and Therapeutic Story Telling
St Lukes Innovations has a number of cards for various purposes. Feeling cards such as the Bears are a must and works well with children, particularly when they are finding it tricky to name and identify a feeling. In this instance, I give the child some cards and say ‘choose cards that represent that feeling’. Two Worlds cards are great to explore feelings and thoughts about children living in two homes/two different worlds. For adolescents, Deep Speak, Shadows and Inside Out are great resources to initiate discussions and also to explore deeper thoughts and meanings for feelings and behaviours.
I have developed a therapeutic story telling little library and love it! My role being in assessments in previous years did not lead me to focus so much on this type of resources before, so I am enjoying finding stories and would love to write some one day! My favourites are:
Personal Construct and Self-Image tools
Rick Beaver in Educational Psychology Casework provides a number of particularly helpful tools that I have used time after time in sessions with children and adolescents such as school situations, drawings, salmon lines. Based on these ideas, I also have a series of cards of school situations collected from various sources which are explored in sessions with children.
Draw your current school and then your ideal school tends to be an activity that works well to get to know where the difficulties at school may be, particularly when engagement and participation is a difficulty.
The series of the Blobs, a number of Blob characters placed in different situations such as the classroom, on a tree, in the playground, in different types of homes and worlds, is also an activity where children and adolescents tend to respond well to and where feelings of their self-concept and personal construct can be explored.
Some questionnaires such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) and BG-Steem can also help explore self-esteem and help scaffold a conversation.
In schools, psychologists are often required to contribute to developing groups aiming to support the development of specific socio-emotional skills. When looking at these resources, it is best to look into the evidence behind these programmes. However, in schools, purchasing expensive programmes and needing to attend training to become an accredited ‘trainer’ can act as a barrier to providing support to children. Having some guide books (which are often based on evidence-based practices) can help design some much needed support in a more immediate way. The following resources provide a good start:
The Science of Parenting/What every parent needs to know from Margot Sunderland explores a number of relevant themes affecting parents such sleep, tantrums, love to name only a few.
Parents are often finding behaviour management tricky. Tools, such as the ABC, based on a functional behaviour analysis helps gathering evidence around patterns of behaviour and helps open the discussion about more problem behaviours.
A Solution-oriented meeting format where ‘what’s ok’ is explored together with exceptions can also give a sense of empowerment to parents in helping them to realise there are many aspects of their role they are fulfilling well. It can also give an outline and format as to what needs to change, providing a tool to manage and initiate change.
Working in schools provide a number of advantages and can make a difference for many children and young people who would not normally have the opportunity to access special attention and support.
***The author of this text has no relationship with authors/resources mentioned and no financial gain in promoting any of these resources.***
Essential Readings and Guide Books
Ajmal, Y. & Rees, I. (2004). Solutions in Schools. BT Press: London.
Beaver, R. (2003). Educational Psychology Casework: A Practice Guide. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London & Philadelphia.
Cefai, C. (2008). Promoting Resilience in the classroom. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; London& Philadelphia.
Geddes, H. (2006). Attachment in the Classroom. Worth Publishing.
Rosoman, C. (2008). Therapy To Go. Jessica Kingsley: London&Philadelphia
Seiler, L. (2008). Cool Connections with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Jessica Kingsley: London&Philadelphia
Stallard, P. (2005). Think Good, Feel Good. John Wiley & Sons, LTD: Chichester
Thielking, M. & Terjesan, M. (2017). Handbook of Australian School Psychology. Springer.
Treisman, K. (2017). A Therapeutic Treasurebox for Working with Children and Adolescents with Developmental Trauma.
Sunderland, M. (2007). The Science of Parenting. DK: London.
Zandt, F. & Barrett, S. (2017). Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings. Jessica Kingsley: London
My role in Australia is quite different from my experience in the UK when working as an educational and child psychologist. Seeing children over a longer period of time has been great, but also brought some challenges. I had to rethink my ways of working and incorporate a number of new creative resources and ideas into my professional practice. It has been great to research and trial these. I present here my top five, the resources I feel have been particularly engaging for the children.
School holidays in the Winter always tend to be a little tricky. What to do with the children? How to keep peace? How to entertain them?
In consultations, parents often talk about this time of the year being difficult as the children tend to do too much ‘device time’. Parents also explain this time of the year as expensive and stressful, needing to be busy to entertain the children to avoid conflicts. Families who are migrating and arrive in a new house with not much may also relate to the need to find activities with not much and at a low cost. In this frame of mind, here are described a number of simple and low cost activities to help families think about activities during the Winter school holidays (In Australia, this does not include Christmas, a novelty to me!). Winter holidays tend to be more difficult because of the weather, but with a little bit of imagination, it can be done…you just to wrap up warm! and for the rainy days, think a little more creatively!
Yes, there may be time with devices and special movies. Yes, some special activities that cost more money such as a cinema trip, a bounce in a soft play area, a museum visit or a special outing, may be planned, but with all of the above, hopefully this will not be a regular occasion. Holidays are also there to enable children to catch up with their sleep, play and be able to develop their own interests and self-identity. Ensure children have plenty of time to develop skills for unstructured play. This will support imagination, creativity and self-help skills, all very important life skills.