Caring Adult's Guide
Have You Ever Been a Child? Hints for Children and Adults is designed for children and adolescents who
a) may not have received validation that allows them to most fundamentally know their feelings and
b) once feelings are known, realize that these feelings are valid and acceptable
c) can be taught that they have choices on how to express these feelings
d) can do self affirmations
Here is the sequence that helps children. The first step in the sequence is creating awareness. The child moves from awareness, to validation of their reality, and then to the ability to make healthier, more adaptive choices, with the help of a healing relationship with the caregiver. Taking these steps will help build a trusting relationship and helping the child deal with his/her life.
The Three Phases
The sample discussions provided use trust, betrayal and self affirmations as examples. There are other pages that relate to each of these topics. You may want to have several discussions on each topic and you can re-combine the pages in ways that make sense to you and the child(ren). The categories we listed are not exhaustive--but to help get you started. We believe it is important that each topic be dealt with in each of the 3 phases described below.
Phase 1-educational/awareness, trust building phase
Phase 2-eliciting/validating their experiences (child centered)
Phase 3-teaching new behaviors/choices for improved mental health
Phase 1 is the trust building phase. During this phase the caregiver does more of the talking than in later phases and the book is used to educate and bring awareness to the children. Phase 1 allows the children to feel safety. It teaches about important mental health issues while protecting them from being over-exposed or put on the spot before they feel safe. This is important for building trust and bringing awareness.
Phase 2 is the eliciting and validating experience phase. Now emphasis shifts to them discussing their experiences. Here the book is used as a touchstone to begin their discussions of their lives. The caregiver's role shifts to one of facilitating, balancing participation and providing a safety net if needed.
Phase 3 is the phase that commences when children are aware, knowledgeable and trusting and can begin to change, find help, make healthy choices. The same pages can be used again or different ones can be chosen by the child. In phase three, the child can initiate topics. The discussions can move from being only about their own experience, to trying out new ways to handle situations, or new ways to look at their lives. They can use the pages to create role plays with you .
Following are four sample discussion plans. The first one is for everyone when beginning with the book, Have You Ever Been a Child? . One discussion plan for each of the phases is also provided. As you become familiar with the book, you will find many creative (and better) variations. Remember you will want to have several discussions on each topics, so don't use all the relevant sentences at once. These categories are not exhaustive, just examples.
Phase 1 Opening Discussion
Select Topic: Getting to know you/introduce book.
Choose pages: in this case all pages--getting to know the book, Have You Ever Been a Child? Go through the book together with the task of numbering pages. (see numbered pages in the back of the guide)
Clarify Goal: The goal is to be with the child(ren) and focusing on the book, which will put them at ease as they're getting to know you using the book with them. You show the ghost page as number 1 remembering to make page 2 on the blank back side of 1.
Generate discussion: After the pages are numbered, have the child(ren) write his/her name in his/her book. Explain that "...the book will be used as we talk together...." Do not expect a discussion in the first session. Instead, pay attention to what spontaneously arises as the pages are being numbered. Encourage interaction. Make spontaneous comments yourself such as "Oh, I felt like that yesterday." or "This one reminds me of when I was your age." or "This is how I feel right now." to model for them how the book helps elicit personal experience.
Close Session: Ask if there are any comments. Invite them to read the book on their own.
Sample Discussion from Phase 1
Select topic: Trust (broken trust) Choose pages: 5, 11, 13, 21, 25, 27
Clarify Goal: The goal is to educate the children about how trust is broken. In this discussion you will do much of the talking, using these pages to teach the children about how trust is broken, about how it's hard to figure out how to find help and when it is safe to ask. Use examples from your own life.
Generate Discussion: It is important to give the child(ren) a chance to size you up without being put on the spot themselves. Give personal examples, talk about your life, set the relationship as you review the pages. If they are ready to share, encourage it, giving acceptance and praise for their contribution. Don't require sharing.
Close Discussion: Ask if there are any comments. Emphasize the pages 7, 21, 27 as you close, saying, "Maybe you've tried before and found out that it wasn't safe to tell. In this group, you will find that it is safe to talk and to get help."
Sample Discussion from Phase 2
Select Topic: Betrayal Choose pages: 5, 7, 11, 13, 31
Clarify Goal: The goal is for children to discuss how they have been betrayed, finding safety with you (and other children, if in a group). You will validate their experience of these betrayals, which will help them heal.
Generate Discussion: The discussion is the impact of betrayal in their lives on their attitudes and actions at school, at home and in the community. You want them to see the relationship between the betrayals they have experienced and actions they now take. When they can link these two things, and have people like you caring, they care more about what they do, and the impact it has on themselves and others.
Close Discussion: Ask if there are any comments. Use pages 21, 27, 29, 35 to relate those experiences to opening the idea that there are other options, other possibilities and other ways to find help from people who know about healthier choices.
Sample Discussion from Phase 3
Select Topic: Self-Affirmations Choose Pages: 33, 35, 37
Clarify Goal: Help child(ren) find in themselves the ability to make good choices that have positive consequences.
Generate Discussion: Help child(ren) find examples from their past that, knowing what they're learning now, they could do differently. Help them look at something in the present that they could use these affirmations to help right now. Role playing is a possibility. They could replace an old behavior with new action.
Close Discussion: Page 81 and/or page 87 can be used to lead to the close.
Ask if there are any comments. Begin giving them perspective on how much they've learned. Invite child(ren) to make a comment about changes they've seen in each other or in themselves.
You now have one sample discussion for each phase, in addition to a first discussion plan. Create as many discussions as you need for each phase. Remember, you can use the same page, in combination with other ones, many times, depending on your goal. Also, you can use each topic several times within each phase, and again as you move into other phases. For example, talking about trust, once you know each other well, will be very different from talking about trust as you get to know each other. Be creative. Have fun.
Additional Topics For Discussion and Corresponding Pages
Introduction Safe People/Places Recognizing Personal Strengths
all pages 5,7,11,13,19,21,25, 1,3,13,15,21,23,41,53,81,87
Naming/Accepting Feelings Fear Sadness Betrayal
1,13,15,19,23,25,33,35,41,43 1,3,7,13,15 5,15,19,41 5,7,11,13,25
47,49,58,63,65,75,79 21,41,58,59,75 27,31,41,61
Anger Happiness Loneliness Self awareness/validation
7,13,17 41,47,49, 7,41 7,9,11,13,15,17,23,31,37,39,41,43,49,
41,61 51,73 51,53,57,58,59,63,65,71,79,83,89,91,100
Trust and Relationships Affirmations/Change Other (your choice)
19,29,33,35,41,47,49,51,53, 11,19,21,23,27,29,31,37,39, 45
57,61,65, 75,76,81,85,87,93 55,57,61,63,65,71,73,75,76,79
Other Possibilities resentful, capable, worthless, two feelings at the same time
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