According to the National Institute of Mental Health, emerging data from the pandemic suggest that many children are experiencing an increase in stress and other mental health concerns, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders. Airmid has expanded our ability to support more children with three play therapy rooms dedicated to traditional play therapy with sand tray, puppets and art movement.
Sand Tray Therapy is a form of Play Therapy where children are encouraged to explore their life events that may be affecting their present situation and creating difficulties. As researcher and author Garry Landreth explains the play therapy experience, “Toys are like the child’s words, and play is the child’s language.” Learn More about Play Therapy>>>
The fourth room in our Play Therapy Center is committed to SMART Moves. SMART stands for Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment, an innovative mental health therapy for children and adolescents.
Our SMART Moves Program provides the opportunity for the child to practice making better choices, ways to self-regulate and to co-regulate with a parent or caregiver. Through movement and sensory experiences, the child is able to find balance for their system and then to process their concerns, struggles and traumas.
Our SMART Moves Program also facilitates attachment-building between the child and caregiver and builds strategies and self and other-regulation toolboxes that can be easily built into the daily routine at home to further support the healing process. SMART Moves has been listed as an Evidence Based Practice with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
In psychology, change is viewed as a positive aspect of a crisis as it provides the opportunity to do things differently. Yet, people fear change. Change of jobs, neighborhoods or schools. As life occurs, we inevitably experience change. There is the natural process of change, infant to toddler, school age child to adolescent and young adult to older adult. There are the biological changes and environmental changes. Some changes are self-generated and under our own control. Some changes can be dependent on encounters with others – family, friends, colleagues and intimates. Many changes occur as a result of circumstances or fate, the proverbial “date with destiny.”
Change is inevitable and it can disrupt the usual flow of our lives, but it also provides the opportunity to examine our lives and decide whether to stay the course or to change our direction. We can meet the change with acceptance and gratitude or with bitterness and resistance. If we deny ourselves the opportunity to explore the change, to understand it and to decide how it will be perceived and processed in our file of life, we can be deprived of the invaluable gift in powerful lessons. In the Psychology Today journal, Dr. Abigail Brenner wrote, “Change without transition may only serve to recreate old scenarios and reinforce old patterns of behavior – for change to have a salutary effect on us we need to learn – to effectively work with it and not to run the other way when it presents itself.”
When my son was 4-years old he began to cry when he found out that I traded our propane tank for another one. I wasn’t able to find a replacement for our current tank, so I resorted to trading in my empty canister for a full one at my local grocery. My son noticed the subtle differences between the one we had and this new “borrowed” one. Through his tears he voiced that he did not get a chance to say good-bye to it and that he would miss it. Change. We continually move toward it, looking to better ourselves, to improve our lifestyle, but yet, when change stares us in the eyes, we shutter at the prospects of what it will be, what this stranger offers, and if it can be trusted.
For many of us, even the idea of change is often overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. For some, change is something to be avoided at all cost. It is important to recognize those transformative moments and find the valuable lessons in your change moments.
Write a list of changes in your life.
Identify which changes were self-generated changes.
Identify which changes were out of our control.
Make a list of all the perceived negatives from this change.
Make a list of the valuable insights you gained.
Make a list of all the powerful lessons learned.
Finally, choose one of the items from your change list and write about it in detail. Maybe you were not able to see the gifts at the time of the change but now you can write through that change memory to identify the gifts now.
I recently had a new stone patio put in my backyard. There had been extensive water damage that required the removal of the deck. Once the drainage was addressed and a beautiful new stone patio was complete, I asked by 3-year-old grandson if he liked this new patio. His response surprised me. “No”. He informed me that he missed the other one, the wood one with the rotting boards and uneven planks – he missed that one. The wood deck was all he had knew. It was that wood deck where we played shaving cream games, tossing hands full of the thick white foam at each other, smearing it into each other’s hair and making designs and faces in the foam. The wood deck was where we sat on summer mornings and drank some chai tea, clanking our mugs together shouting “salud” as we giggled and took our first gulp. The wood planks became roadways for his Tonka trucks, that he raced back and forth for hours, crashing them into the side of the house while laughing and declaring a winner of the race.
The deck had several tears from the previous owner. She had an above ground -pool and the tears were like steps leading to the pool. I removed that pool my first week living in the house, not wanting to be a slave to the maintenance and winter care. The tears are now dangerous if you are not watching your step. But for my grandson, they were mountains that he would jump off of to the lower level. He was so proud of himself for the great height he concurred and demanded applause from all of us. Those variations in height became cliffs that his trucks would drive off and an ambulance would rush to the scene and magically fix the trucks and declare that no one was hurt as they were returned to the higher level of the deck once again. For my grandson, his mountains were removed, the cliffs were gone and possibly, he feared, that memories attached to those rotted wood planks, to the uneven deck that sagged under our feet were also gone. Change. He voiced not wanting the change, not being happy about the change.
This was a needed change but certainly not one I openly embraced because of the extensive work and expense to resolve the water damage. It was a change that came from necessity and safety and at a time it determined when it would be addressed – not me. I do, however, love the ease of movement now, the freedom of setting up my patio, arranging my furniture any way I desire without level constraints or safety issues. I love the solidness under my feet. The shades of burnt sienna, crimson alizarin, burnt umber and black stones remind me of the rawness of the desert landscape that I once enjoyed. My grandson has now moved his attention to the hill in the yard and rolls down it and sends his trucks flying down. Both him and his Pitbull sister, Raven, happily chase them and romp about racing to reach the truck first. He appears to have discovered another source of fun, reaching beyond the borders of the old wood deck and creating new play scenarios and even making space for his dog to join in. Change.
Pearls are what happen when an oyster or some other mollusk is irritated by the invasion of some disturbing intruder into its closed shell. A grain of sand may be slight but not too slight to cause a pearl to form. Pearls are layers and layers of soothing nacre intended to insulate the delicate mollusk from the irritant that has abraded it. At the very core, a pearl is a disturbance, a beauty caused by something that isn’t supposed to be there. It is the interruption of equilibrium that creates beauty. Beauty is a response to provocation, to intrusion.
Artists have the ability to invite intrusions into their lives and then use its fire as creativity. They turn the environmental irritants into words, images and sounds that renew the onerous attacks in the lives of others. Our world is an oyster and it is filled with irritants and disturbances. Many of us may try to keep our shell tightly closed to avoid any disturbance within. Others may be inviting this discord in closer, allowing a metamorphosis to occur. This change – even the most infinitesimal change – presents an opportunity to create a precious pearl in our lives.
I sit in my home office, pen-to-page, contemplating the irritants that have found their way into my life shell. A ladder of memories, both distant and recent, form on the blue lines of the page. Some bring pause like the larger events, divorce, births and deaths. Others slip along one after the other with only a glimpse out of the corner of my memory’s eye. All of them, meniscal or grand, torpid or alive, they all shimmer together forming the many pearls in my life. In writing this blog I have realized that each and every one of the pearls, black, white, cream or green, make up a life lived and experienced. How do I view the jewels of my painful moments in life? Do I honor them or merely place them in a crevice in my mind that goes unnoticed like a tarnished penny on the street?
Make a list of all the disruptions in your life.
Make a list of all the irritants – no matter how small – that have caused you to react in a way that set you on another direction in life.
Make a list of irritants you may have invited or allowed into your life.
Make a list of all the pearls that have been created because of the irritants you experienced.
Explore turns that have been sharp or maybe more of a slight deviation in your direction due to an interruption in your life.
Make a list of people that may have entered into your life whether they were welcomed or unwelcomed, and how they may have subverted your life or merely shifted your firm stance.
Once you have your list, I welcome you to do a free-write about the experience of the irritant entering your shell. Creating the layers of nacre over and around the irritant and then describe the pearl that was created in your life. Slow down while remembering and allow each layer to the story to be full and enriched with details. When your story is complete, spend time with it so that you can take in all the beauty of your transformation and resilience, wear your pearl with pride!
When my spouse walked out on me, he opened and closed the door behind him and never looked back. I thought I was going to implode. I knew it was the best thing for me but inside I felt like my lungs became stone, no air could pass, no breath could flow. I wanted to cry a monsoon but inside was only a drought, a basin filled with memoires, debris. They were washed there by the flooding waters and left as the monsoon softened bringing the torrid desert sun. My lips quivered and my body trembled as my mind struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Was I standing or sitting? was I inside or outside? I don’t remember how long I was there in this torpid state, alienated from anything around me and bound to nothing. I don’t remember how I was able to welcome my kids’ home from school that day or to parent them at all, but I know I did. I moved through task after task disconnected from family or friends and myself.
I began to feel this force inside of me, this propulsion, but I did not know what that was or how to release it in this turbulence. I reached out to my old writing group and found myself swaddled among all the other wonderful women whose voices and stories I had missed. I started writing again from a deeper space, from the basement and attic of my soul. I found myself going deep into the earth, below the roots of my life, and being able to look at them, touch them and feel the vibration of each and every one of them. It was writing that helped me to understand them. I wrote my way to some clarity and found my way back to me. I began to remember all my qualities and strengths, but more importantly, I remembered my passions. It felt as though I had been swept up in the eye of a tornado and I was sent spinning and twirling, a mere particle that had no control or say in what was happening. When I relaxed, I suddenly just dropped from the tornado’s hold and landed back in my life.
My new relationship with writing was the pearl that was created out of what felt like an unbearable pain. This pearl remains a critical part of me and one that continues to enrich my life. It illuminates every grain of sand that enters my shell, guiding me toward creating something better from life’s irritants, something worthier of a life lived.
Birthing’s are almost always associated with having a child, but they are not always defined by the generative process
There are thousands of ways we “give birth” in our lives, such as birthing an idea, new artwork or plans for something novel in our lives. I have experienced many different birthing’s of myself over my lifetime. Some more painful than others. Some bearing more fruit or a fuller and much healthier result. Other birthing’s were wrought with much loss like divorce and the death of family and friends. Some were lower on the pain scale like when changing jobs or schools. Many others were very simple, quick and over without a pause between the before and after. Several birthing’s took a lot of planning, editing out some fluff and whittling down the initial expansive idea to a more workable and achievable reality.
We are constantly birthing and re-birthing ourselves throughout our lives as we learn new perspectives, travel and our experiences increase. In Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson, she explores the lives of several woman who were very successful in their careers’ but later in life they changed their professional direction. All of these women gave birth to completely new careers’ requiring them to re-define themselves as women, mothers and partners.
After several years of growing and nurturing the concept of Airmid, the labor ended, and she was birthed. Airmid is now in the world, conceived of all the dreams, ideas and hopes for her presence in the world. My partners’ and I held hands as we stood on the precipice of change. We each left full-time jobs with paid vacation and health plans, to bring forth this labor of love and passion. As we stood there, silent, hands clasped together, and our eyes speaking a mutual fear and joy, we jumped off the cliff and into a new unknown.
We birthed and rebirthed Airmid daily, nurturing her to her full potential as a mother does her child. Those daily birthing’s, although, laborious, almost go unnoticed as do many of the smaller birthing’s everyone experiences from day to day. Today I invite you to remember, and in remembering, to honor, all the birthing’s you have had in your life. There are the birthing’s after a loss and the ones meticulously planned for, but none the less they are birthing’s.
Writing Prompt #1
Make a list of all your birthing’s, in chronological order or in thematic order (i.e. family, work, relationships) or in the order in which they occur to you now.
Choose one of the items identified on your list and write about that.
Continue to move through your list and write about each of the birthing’s you identified,
Write about birthing your dreams, a new business or relationship.
Think about times in your life that you may have changed directions professionally, academically, socially or creatively. Often one birthing can lead to many others like where you go to college could lead to where you work and start a family.
Write about leaving an old identity and venturing into a new one.
As always please feel free to deviate from my prompts and write about anything that emerges as you read through the above prompts. Keep your hand moving, even when the internal critic tells you that you are wasting your time or that what you are writing is meaningless – keep writing through that and into a deeper relationship with yourself.
COVID-19 has dramatically changed all of our lives. It has limited our ability to join classes, listen to live music concerts and attend exhibits at the Art Museums. Many people have already established their routine art groups, scrap-booking groups and ceramic studios that they attend for their artistic release or the mental/emotional escape from the realities of life. Being home and unable to access your groups, to be involved in life where most of your inspiration comes from, may have left you feeling that creativity pushing against your chest or images bouncing around in your head with no clear direction for birthing them. Indeed, it can feel intimidating to stare at a blank page in a sketch book or the white space of a canvas. Without the direction of a prompt or the creative energy of a class it can feel overwhelming as the pull to create goes head to head with the frenetic search for a clear directon to begin. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do art. You simply have to start making marks on a page or gluing items together to discover what your unconscious wants you to know. Art can provide the boundaries for intense and chaotic feelings, creating safety for them to be expressed in their “bigness”. Art can also be a fun way to bring family members together. It enlivens us, energizes us and is a playful way to explore ourselves. No one needs to possess great talent to do art. Art is a process, not an end. And it doesn’t just feel good, creating art has been proven to facilitate healing. The use of art has been studied in a variety of populations receiving therapy such as veterans, cancer patients, children and the elderly with dementia. Dr. John Diamond, founder of the Arts as Healing Foundation, found that people with dementia and other progressive neurological diseases can still create because creativity continues to be present all the while past language skills and the ability to reason are compromised. Dr. Diamond also found that visual art can reduce stress and create a more relaxed state in our bodies and mind. Art with guidance has shown to facilitate new understandings, insights, problem solving abilities, and new perspectives that can lead to a more positive outcome and healing. Carl Gustav Jung, considered the father of analytical psychology, designed and used the mandala as a way to tap into the unconscious. Today, Jung’s concept remains in the form of adult coloring books. In nearly every store in the country you can find these coloring books in a variety of designs that intend to guide you towards mindfulness and a state of calm. I will be presenting art prompts weekly for you to do individually or as a family. Now remember that there is no bad art. In fact, the Japanese call this “Wabi Sabi”, or releasing your unrealistic expectations and embracing the imperfections of being human. If you keep waiting for the perfect moment, the most amazing idea, or all the right materials to create with –you will never begin. Art is in the moment, of the moment and it will pass with the moment just as another moment presents itself. Welcome it. And allow the other moment to leave so that you can have the space for your new guest. Art Prompt #1 MAKE SILLY PLAYFUL PAPER MASKS Since masks have become a necessary part of our lives, I thought it might be fun to make some silly paper masks. You can have each family member make one and then do a family mask photo. You can have each member draw or color the face of their favorite animal or even a piece of fruit. Instructions:
Take a piece of blank printer paper and fold it lengthwise.
Unfold the paper and cut along the folded crease.
Fold the corners on the short side in toward each other and staple them so the ends come to a point.
On the front side you can draw or color the face you like (i.e. pig, cat, dog, simile face, man with a mustache, or maybe a rainbow or butterfly).
Then take two rubber bands and staple them on the back of each end point and wrap the rubber bands around your ears and have a family parade of animals and take a family photo shoot.
MAKE A MONSTERInstructions:
Take a sheet of printer paper or construction paper and fold it into thirds.
One person draws a head on the top third with lines from neck slightly crossing over onto the second third.
Pass the paper to the next person – folded so they can only see the second third of the paper.
Then draw a middle section of the monster (without knowing what the head looks like!).
Then fold the paper so only the last third shows.
Then pass it to the next person and that person draws the bottom portion of the monster.
Once it is completed open it up for everyone to see and enjoy!
Alternatively,each family member can draw a part of the monster on a single sheet of paper. Once everyone has completed their drawing, the separate parts can be taped or stapled together. What kind of monster did you create? Give your monster a name and identify what sound it would make or how it would move. Have fun with your new monster! TEXTURE SKETCHInstructions:
Choose any size of paper you would like, whether it be a large poster size or computer size paper.
Then place your paper on items with textures inside of your house or outside in the yard (for example, tree trunks, leaves, textured seating, a lamp base, the top of a lid, or a rough stone).
With a crayon or pencil lightly color in back and forth strokes on the paper and watch the textures appear.
Create a collage of textures on your paper and fit as many as you can.
Challenge your family to take their own paper and crayon and find as many textures as they can. When you all come back together share them and talk about which textures you found and how you created your design.