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On the last track we discussed supporting the children. This track included four guidelines for helping your clients as parents dealing with children who are trying to cope with cancer in the family or of a friend or loved one. The four guidelines for supporting children are preparing to tell the children, talking to children about cancer, evaluating reactions, and discussing cancer with multiple children.
Since the last track provided information on how a client might talk to children about cancer, this track will focus on techniques for child affect integration. The two techniques on this track are storytelling and playing, and drawing. You might find that the techniques on this track can be provided for client information or applied directly in your practice with a child client you may be treating. Also, could playing this track in an upcoming session be productive?
2 Techniques for Child Affect Integration
Technique # 1: Storytelling and Playing
Older children might be encouraged to write a short story or poem about when the patient got sick. Perhaps they can write a letter to the patient telling him or her about his feelings. Letters written to friends and relatives can help share stories about the changes in the child or teens lives.
In my practice, I suggest to the parent or guardian that he or she validate the child’s emotions by sharing with them a personal experience. For example, Todd, age 34, validated his daughter Jamie’s emotions. Todd stated, “I remember when my father had cancer. I was very scared.” Jamie then knew it was okay to be scared because her father felt the same way. How might storytelling and playing benefit the child of a client you are treating?
Technique # 2: Drawing
Todd tried the following exercise with his 8 year old daughter Jamie. Todd brought Jamie into a comfortable room which was the den. Todd sat with her, symbolizing that he was engaged in this exercise too. I had given Todd a chart with drawings of faces, each of which depicted a different emotion: anger, sadness, happiness, or nervousness. Todd stated, “We cuddled up together to establish some intimacy. Then I pointed to the face that represented how I felt. I asked Jamie, “Which of these drawings looks like you feel?”
This exercise gave Jamie a way to assign pictures to her feelings. Would you agree that by putting words or pictures to feelings, younger children can begin to express their feelings. To help Jamie verbalize, Todd stated, “You look so sad. It must feel like all of my attention is on Mommy now.” A child who may think it’s childish to be afraid of losing a parent or being abandoned may point to the sad face and share her fears.
On this track we discussed techniques for child affect integration. The two techniques on this track are storytelling and playing, and drawing.
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