My first job in the Los Angeles child welfare system was as a paraprofessional volunteer at the Stephen S. Weiss Temple Adoption Support Center under the supervision of Stephanie Siegel, PhD. I mentored children who were adopted, assisted with support groups, and helped answer questions about my experience at special events and panels for families. I didn’t think much of it because at the time, I was busy trying to be an actress! I had written and performed a play, titled “What’s Your Name, Who’s Your Daddy?” which sheds light on growing up in foster care with the objective to share “what it feels like.” I did benefits for local foster care and adoption organizations, and it was at a Q & A, with county social workers and psychotherapists that I realized I knew more than the professionals knew, about the psychological and emotional impact of growing up in foster care and the light bulb went on. “I think I want to work with children and families connected by foster care and adoption!”
So, I went back to school to pursue a Master’s Degree in Psychology, and was hired not as a psychotherapist first, but as a Foster Care Social Worker at Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency under the direction of Sylvia Fogelman and worked with children in the foster care system referred by the Department of Child and Family Services in Los Angles County. She said to me, “Trust your instincts, you have a lot to offer.” No one had ever told me that. I was compelled to do what she had instilled in me, and I learned endlessly about the foster care system in Los Angeles.
I drove to children’s homes in a 1985 Mazda Rx7, transported them to and from birth family visits and/or doctor’s appointments, monitored visits, talked with mothers helping them see how important they were to their children, recognized the stigma parents had about birth families as “junkies” or “bad people”, heard that social workers were making promises to children about returning to their families when parents were already AWOL. Every other day a foster parent’s call would begin with, “How can I give my 7-day notice?” I was overwhelmed, and kept asking myself, how do we all get on the same page?
Then in 2006, I wanted to start taking some small steps on my own, so I started a private practice, became a Medi-cal provider, doing attachment therapy with children and families connected by foster care and adoption. I answered parents’ questions over and over, about attachment, trust, grief reactions….” foster kids are grieving the loss of their previous situation…even if it was scary” “trauma impacts the brain and behavior…” “do you know any foster alumni you can speak to?” “have you read more about a birth mother’s experience?” “do you know any adoptees?” “Please make friends with other families like yours, this will be a lifelong process.”
I continued to question, where are the others out there like me? How can we help each other understand? How can I help eliminate the stigma of birth families? How can I help families understand the lifelong impact? I realized parents needed more support and education outside of therapy. The “whole system” needed more support and education of knowing together “what is the best interest of the child?”. And most importantly it would be beneficial if they could all hear it together, sit in the question together, and find solutions together.
So in 2009, I called a local adoption agency, Vista Del Mar Agency, and asked if they would host a support group I named Adopt Salon Constellation named after the book by Micheal Grand, The Adoption Constellation… where he writes…
“Openness helps everyone in the adoption constellation. It heals relationships and helps to guide how the birth family is part of the adoptive family, and how the adoptive family is part of the birth family. We have to think of that relationship in both directions, which is different than a totally closed adoption where we pretend that the birth family never existed. This is why we need to think about the adoption constellation. The constellation includes all the people involved in the adoption experience: siblings, both birth and adoption, extended families, social workers, teachers, religious leaders, and legislators. A constellation model allows for them all to influence the experience and recognizes changes in relationships over time. Some may drift away, some may become closer.”
After reading the book, I chose to include foster care to the equation too, because I was raised in foster care and many of the families I worked with were in foster care. This voice in child welfare needed understanding too.
And 60 people showed up to the first group! It was shocking! I finally felt that I had found a “ real solution” to a “ real problem”. Adopt Salon. The support group was and still is a success and has become couple’s “date night” on the first Wednesday of the scheduled months.
Goals of Adopt Salon:
#1: Bring everyone together- first mothers, first fathers, foster youth alumni, foster parents, kinship caregivers, legal guardians, adult adoptees, adoptive parents, siblings, relatives, and significant others in one room. Yes, I repeat, in one room!
#2: Provide a space to share each other’s stories in an emotionally safe environment, with a non-biased facilitator, who could hold each different voice and point of view with respect and regard. Which was me, the voice of the child welfare system having regard for all those who help a child navigate the child welfare system, and find a forever family.
#3: Create a list of safe and healthy boundaries. “We are here to share stories, thoughts, feelings, and ideas, receive psycho-education, process grief, and loss, build strong bonds and connections. There is no criticizing, judgment, or unsolicited advice given unless requested, when sharing all shares must be expressed in an “I message.” If you have a question, that person has a right to respond or say “no thank you. You can also be an OWL – observe, watch and listen so that your feelings can inform a proactive response, rather than reactive response. And most importantly, understand there are many voices in child welfare, and many different points of view because…”
“If you look at a tree from one angle, that’s the only angle you are going to get!”
How the group works:
We start by going around the group, each person states their name, their connection to adoption or foster care, and say if they have any questions, pressing issues, or shares, so the facilitator can return back to them to open up a group discussion.
Common themes that come up are the struggles with parenting a child with early childhood trauma, helping them change the paradigm from “what’s wrong with him to what happened to him?”, understanding grief and loss for the adoptee and foster youth and first-birth mother or father, shifting the way first-birth mothers and fathers are perceived as people with their “own unmet mental health needs”, and having the courage to acknowledge that we can and are grieving these losses together. And lastly, by acknowledging this commonality, this will help us see the connection of what’s truly “in the best interest of the child”.
There are stories shared about mothers who were forced to surrender their children due to no fault of their own and those whose families did not support them in keeping their children. There are stories of mothers, who genuinely wanted their children, who were not ready to be mothers, were also products of the foster care system and yet still wanted to be a part of their children’s lives but not knowing how. Then we discuss open adoption and how that works. And teaching foster parents, how to convey their child’s stories to them in an “age-appropriate way” and helping families who have not, still to this day, told their children they were adopted as infants. There are stories of foster youth alumni who ran away from home due to the abuse they endured and needed their foster families to understand how badly they were hurting and what they truly needed during those times.
There have also been special guests at Adopt Salon, representing different points of view, i.e. professionals who are also part of the constellation such as Marcy Axness, Marlou Russell, Dee Dee Mascarenas, Noah Rothchild, Maureen Donley, Santana Dempsey, Briana Spencer, foster youth alumni, adult adoptees, and first mother Kelsey Stewart.
Where we are today:
The support group is held four times a year, on the first Wednesday of March, June, September, and December from 7-9pm at Vista Del Mar Adoption Agency.
Starting in October and November 2019, we will be hosting a new system of support, called Adopt-ED Salon Open House, which is a bi-annual open house bringing together people in the foster care and adoption constellation with those who have an interest in the community including social workers, therapists, prospective adoptive or foster parents, among others.
The mission of the open house is to increase awareness, facilitate community and encourage dialogue in a minimally-structured, non-clinical environment. This format allows people to have private conversations with any member of the constellation, ask questions that they always thought about asking and never had the opportunity to do before to break down the walls. Adopt-ED Salon Open House was developed by our board member, Carra Greenberg, lawyer, and an adult adoptee.
For 10 years now we have been learning, via Adopt Salon Constellation, how to break down the walls of the negative stigma, how to support one another with respect and compassion, and start saying “we and us” together, so we can be the constellation of change together, as a community.
In 2014, an ADOPT SALON RESEARCH STUDY was conducted HERE on the efficacy of this group.
93% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that:
- The support group increased their knowledge
- 94% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that
- The support group provided a safe place for them to share stories, thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
87% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that:
- The support group provided opportunities for them to process grief and loss.
- The support group provided them with opportunities to build strong bonds and connections with others.
91% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that:
- They are able to understand themselves better because of this group.
96% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that:
- They will recommend this group to others
- I understand my adopted daughter much more since coming to this group.
- Priceless information regarding the emotional well-being of the adoption and foster community.
- Being able to understand, relate, and talk an adoptee and foster youth.
- Learning how to approach an upcoming reunion.
- Developing a better relationship and intimacy with family.
- Gaining priceless and useful information regarding the emotional well-being of the adoption and foster care community.
- I recommend the group to anyone in the adoption triad!
As said by James L. Gritter, author of Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption says:
The birth family creates the life.
The adoptive and foster family sustain the life,
and together, they affirm the child’s life.
The Adopt Salon Constellation Support group was created by CeliaCenter.org, helping families become whole again one group, one family, one person at a time.
Jeanette Yoffe, M.A., M.F.T. founded the non-profit she named, Celia Center, after her first mother, Celia. Celia Center is a mental health center that meets the critical needs of all those connected by Foster Care and Adoption and all those who serve the community of Foster Care and Adoption in Los Angeles and beyond. Year-round, they host mental health conferences, training, workshops, support groups, arts festivals, family outings, and wolf healings.
For more information please visit Celia Center’s website at www.CeliaCenter.org
Watch HERE what people say about Celia Center and Adopt Salon Constellation Support Groups
A monthly open support group free for all members of the Adoption Constellation: First Birthparents, Adoptees, Former Foster Youth, Foster, Kinship, and Adoptive Parents.
“If you look at a tree from one angle,
that is the only angle you are going to get.” – Jeanette Yoffe
Adoption Support Groups
A place for the Adoption & Foster Care community to come together to share stories, thoughts, feelings, and ideas, receive psycho-education, process grief/loss, and build strong bonds and connections. The group is facilitated by Adoptions/Foster Care Psychotherapist, Adult Adoptee Jeanette Yoffe, MFT, and a co-facilitator guest of the constellation each month.
Read More HERE…
Facing Trauma With Truth Conference at the Luxe Hotel in Los Angeles 2014
Facing Trauma with Truth Conference Welcome with Trish Lay • Jeanette Yoffe
OPENING KEYNOTE WELCOME
Sarah Culberson – Opening Keynote
On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery Laura Dotson • Ruth Beaglehole
A Vision For Adoption in the 21st Century with Adam Pertman
Setting the Record Straight: 5 Myths of Domestic Adoption with Carra Greenberg
Healing the Wound: A Body-Mind Approach with Noah Rothschild
Foster Care Alumni Panel – Hear our Voices, Listen with Your Heart- NEW! Jeanette Yoffe
Acknowledging Guilt and Shame as the Doorway to Connection and Love with Sophie Bain • Sandi Stuart
Infant Massage and Attachment with Hillary Wilson
The Challenge of Responsible and Attuned Adoption Revelation: New Thinking & Understanding with Anne Brodzinksy
“Birthmother” One-Woman Play with Deanna Ross
Unfolding the Open Adoption Process with Jeanette Yoffe
Disrupted Adoptions, Contributing Factors & Intervention Strategies with Adam Pertman
Light and Shadows: Exploring Adoption Through the Arts with Anne Brodzinksy • Laura Callen • Daniel Barash
Inside Transracial Adoption: Breaking the Racial Sound Barrier with Beth Hall
Forgiveness: The Final Frontier with Dee Dee Mascarenas
Recovering the Child: Resolving Developmental Trauma Disorder with Neurological Reorganization with Bette Lamont
Adopted: For the Life of Me Documentary Screening with Trish Lay
Limit Setting through Connection with Darlynn Childress
Identity Challenges of an International Adoption with Susan Smiley
Permanency, Loss, Trauma & Attachment – Role of Mental Health in the Healing Process with Dr. Greg Manning
Male Adoptee Panel with Brian Stanton, Ridghaus Nin, Noah Rothschild
Closing Healing Ritual and Energy Wolfdog from Wolf Connection with Jeanette Yoffe • Trish Lay • Wolf Connection • Red Spirit Fusion
Mending the Losses, Becoming Whole Again Adopt Salon Conference at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles 2012
This 2- day conference took place on
Friday, November 9th & Saturday, November 10th, 2012
Celia Center sponsored this conference and 250 people attended.
Adam Pertman, Parent by Adoption & Exec. Dir. of the National Adoption Institute
Jeanette Yoffe Founder of Celia Center
Marcy Axness, Adoptee, Child Dev. Specialist
Daniel Heimpel, Journalist, Founder/President of Fostering Media Connections & Volunteer w/Foster Alumni
2 days, 14 presenters, 15 Breakout Sessions
This is a conference designed to educate and inspire those connected by adoption.
*Participants will gain insight into the complex, multifaceted and often embodied issues related to adoption.
*You will gain a clearer understanding of adoption and acquire practical, meaningful tools that can ultimately lead to healing and integration of the adoption experience.
A shift is occurring – be a part of the transformation!
Rethinking Adoption in the 21st Century
Watch Opening Keynote Welcome with Jeanette Yoffe
This conference is recommended for all members of the Foster Care and Adoption Constellation and those treating/working with the Foster Care and Adoption population i.e. Foster Youth Alumni, Adult Adoptees, Adoptive Parents, Foster-Adoptive Parents, Birth Parents, Social Workers, Psychotherapists and anyone connected by Foster Care and Adoption.
Conference Schedule: Session topics included…
#101 From Knowledge to Healing: What the Research Teaches Us~ Presenter: Adam Pertman
#102 Focus on Adoption: An Insider’s Perspective ~ Presenters: Carra Greenberg, J.D. and Sheila Kamen, Ph.D.
#103 Transracial Adoptive Family Training and panel ~ Presenter: Angela Gee, M.A., M.F.T.
#104 The Primal Wound: Author answers questions about her world-renowned book ~ Presenter: Nancy Verrier, M.A., M.F.T.
#105 Ten Things Adoptees Want the World to Know- Lesli Johnson
#106 Inside-Out Healing Session ~ Presenters: Craig Hyman and Patrick McMahon
#107 From Loss to Hope: Becoming Parents ~ Presenter: Carole Lieber Wilkins, M.A., M.F.T.
#108 Understanding First Mothers: Realities of Search and Reunion~ Presenter: Mimi Janes
#109 “A Falling Out of Everydayness”: Adoption’s Unspoken Stories~ Presenter: Marcy Axness, Ph.D.
#110 Understanding Your Teen Adoptee… with 3 Teen Panelists~ Presenter: Jeanette Yoffe, M.A., M.F.T.
#111 Making the Most of Adoption Reunions ~ Presenter: Marlou Russell, Ph.D.
#112 Male Adoptees ~ Presenter: Craig Hyman
#113 Attachment Research and Adoption: Raising Children Who Thrive, Not Just Survive ~ Presenter: Sally Maslansky, M.A., M.F.T.
#115 Coming Home to Self: The Path to Healing for all members of the Constellation ~ Presenter: Nancy Verrier, M.A., M.F.T.
“There is a great mystery behind every one of our lives, the great human mystery of why are we here sharing this miraculous planet? Where did we come from? For the adopted child the mystery is even greater because they have two active mysteries. The existential one all humans share about our cosmic origins and purpose and then the very real, very literal mystery of where did I come from? And why did my birth parents give me away? These mysteries inspire many powerful feelings but for the adopted child, the pre-eminent feeling is often grief.
As an Adoption professional and former foster-adopt child, I want to inspire parents to understand how important “the act of joining with their child’s grief” is. As scary as it seems, it will be very liberating. This liberation will not only bring joy to the parents but joy for the child as well. And it is through joy, that the hormone for bonding, oxytocin, is released into the cells of the body which will restructure the brain and increase the desire for attachment. The parent must first “feel” the child’s grief and the child will “feel felt” at this cellular level for bonding to occur. Children feel good about themselves when their experiences are validated, supported, and reassuring.
Annette Baran, the author of the groundbreaking book, The Adoption Triangle, says that “Adoptive parents must weep with their child: ’We’re sorry, too, that you didn’t grow in Mommy’s tummy.’”
“I think parents don’t realize they’re allowed to show these feelings,” says Baran. “They think they have to present an unflagging cheerfulness about adoption, in order that the children will feel positive, too. This is a mistaken notion.”
“Parents whose children express sadness usually feel that they need to reassure them, rather than feel the sadness along with them. But having lost an original set of parents is something to feel sad about, and the best any parent can do for a child is to allow them to share those feelings of loss with them,” explains Baran.
So how does a parent do this?
I have an intervention that I have recommended to parents, which is usually done in a therapy setting, however, it can also be done at home. This intervention has brought emotional closeness as well as emotional intelligence between parent and child. And has helped parents feel their child’s grief in a non-threatening way.
This intervention was derived from another intervention I had created called The Anger Bag, which is composed of 16 coping skills for children to use and assist in expressing, releasing, and projecting their anger outward. I called the exercise the “Paper to Rip” intervention which has now expanded itself from “Paper to Rip” to “Hold On To My Feelings.”
This intervention has been successful with children between the ages of 4-17. Materials needed are an old phone book, an unused pillowcase feasible for drawing and/or writing on which will serve as a bag, and some permanent markers. I recommend providing a setting that is a comfortable space, okay for the paper to be scattered around i.e. family room, bedroom. The parent or parents, (it is strongly suggested that both parents be present) are instructed to have an attitude of playfulness, total acceptance, and curiosity, as well as empathy. These attitudes create a model of parenting which meets the needs of their child, by providing a container for their feelings and produce a therapeutic environment of emotional safety so the child feels “felt, heard and seen.”
To begin, the intervention can be introduced as “We have noticed you have been holding onto a lot of “feelings” and wanted to give you a way to release these feelings by letting you rip up this old phone book. And guess who is going to clean up and hold onto all of the feelings??? Not you, we are.” The parent entices the child through playfulness by demonstrating the task first i.e. opening the phone book, ripping out a few pages at a time, ripping or smashing the paper apart or together, stating with words an example of what they are feeling such as “I’m mad because I can’t drink soda for breakfast!!” and/or by showing their frustration/anger/pain without words via their facial cues by throwing the pages up in the air and watching them fall down. This is the critical element that gets children to begin the process of releasing pent of feelings. It is strongly suggested that parents encourage their children to say words associated with their feelings to help them build emotional intelligence by teaching “I messages.” “I feel ______ because __________.” But do not force the child if they are non-verbal, their resistance may be an explanation that they are not ready emotionally or are not feeling safe enough to verbalize at this time. To note: as a parent provides the opportunity for this intervention on a regular basis the child will begin to build trust, feel safer and be eager to express. An environment of safety must be established for the child to express whatever he/she pleases without criticism, rejection, anger, or dismissal by the parent(s). It is also important to note, as a parent how one’s own non-verbal facial expressions read to others. It is suggested to keep an open face, be overly curious (raised forehead), and breathe deeply during the exercise to help calm down and regulate any arousal states the child brings out emotionally within the parent in order to stay connected. If as a parent, you are becoming dysregulated and overwhelmed this is a signal the child is triggering emotional memories within your past which needs to be addressed and acknowledged for healing and understanding i.e. therapist, journaling, etc. as not to get in the way of building a trusting relationship with your child.
Parents are encouraged to enjoy the child’s process by “oohing” and “aaahhing” with amazement as the child rips up the paper. This is a necessary part of the intervention as the parents are able to stay connected, focused, and excited by their child’s expression this will increase the levels of the oxytocin hormone, essential for bonding.
If the parent has witnessed the child utter words of frustration, anger, or sadness in protest I encourage the parent to ask the child, “Would you be willing to let mommy or daddy speak a feeling you have said before so we can feel it together?” i.e. “I’m mad because I don’t see my birth mother!” “I’m sad because we don’t look alike.” “I’m sad because I didn’t grow in your tummy!” “I’m sad because you are not my real mother.” “I mad because I have so many feelings and I feel so overwhelmed!”
After the phone book is completely obliterated in the living room the child is instructed by the parent to take a comfy seat somewhere in the room and “supervise” as the parent(s) “picks up all the feelings.” Be careful not to say “time to pick up the garbage.” And take a moment and breathe… to take in visually the scattered papers around the room and see them as your child’s “emotional life.” I usually make a statement such as, “Wow look at all these feelings!!! They sure can get messy. Are feelings messy sometimes? Thank you for letting me know about all these. Now, I am going to give them all the love and care that they need.” The parent (s) then picks up the pillow case, begins picking up each feeling, either in piles or single pieces and talks to them with great empathy, “I’m sorry too that you do not see your birthmother.“ “I’m sorry too that we do not look alike.” “I’m sorry too that your birth mommy could not be your everyday mommy.” “This feeling I am going to hold on to and give lots of love.” It is strongly suggested that parents do what they feel is authentic in their hearts at this moment. I have witnessed parents kiss each paper and not say much at all, hug piles of feelings and convey to the child through facial expressions “how much this means to them”, and have witnessed many parents have many tears upon truly understanding, seeing and feeling their child’s grief realizing it is their responsibility to feel it too with their child. I have seen children’s faces light up and be amazed at their parents capacity to be so reflective, open and honest about the reality of their adoption and how they became a family together. This intervention, I can proudly say has been a bridge towards healing and attachment for many of the families I have worked with and continue to work with.
At the end, when all “feelings” have been identified and placed in the pillowcase bag. Ask the child, “Are there any feelings I have missed?” The child scans the room and points them out so all have been acknowledged. Parents then are instructed to ask the child what they want to name these feelings today and have the child write the name, if they can, on the bag. Then the parents write a closing response on the bag such as “I understand.” “I love all of your feelings.” “I am here to listen.” “I want to help hold on to your sadness, so you don’t have to hold on all by yourself.” The parent then reads the response out loud to the child and lets the child know, “I(we) am going to hold on to these feelings until you tell me to let go of them. I will keep them close to my (our) bed and keep them safe.” This act of merely holding onto the feelings bag conveys to the child their feelings can be secured and their parents can handle them and will not be overwhelmed by them. Whether your child was in foster care, moved from place to place, or your child was adopted in infancy, there can be many different ranges of overwhelming feelings of grief connected to the separation from their birth families and the knowledge that they don’t have to be in this overwhelm alone anymore lifts a great weight off emotionally.
In closing, for an adoptee/foster child, this sense of security, and the need to feel heard and seen is imperative for building trust. If an adoptee/foster child feels their needs are not being met early in life, they will “numb” themselves emotionally or “shut off” their feelings. By enacting this “Hold On To My Feelings” repeatedly with your adopted or foster child, your child will develop a sense of belonging and this intervention will help them make sense of their early life and repair what has been emotionally “lost” and now “found” by you, the parent.
I hope you find this intervention as cathartic as I have had in developing as well as facilitating for families touched by adoption and foster care. With a warm heart, I encourage you to join with your child’s grief and feel liberated.
Jeanette Yoffe, MFT is a Psychotherapist Specializing in Adoption and Foster Care. She has a private practice in West Los Angeles. Other interventions can be found in her treatment manual, “Groundbreaking Interventions: Working with Traumatized Children & Families in Foster Care and Adoption” at www.JeanetteYoffe.com
For more information on adoption visit KidsInTheHouse.com
Intervention to Help Children Process Grief and Loss
PROJECT: MY SAD BAG
AGE RANGE: 3-12 suggested
GOAL: To get child to utilize coping skills when he/she feels sad emotionally suffering from grief and loss in order to learn how to problem solve and regulate themselves on their own.
THERAPEUTIC for: Child and Family.
SYMPTOM REDUCTION: Feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless.
SYMPTOM INCREASE: Self-awareness, self-esteem, self-regulation, and self-control.
1 Bag with Handles (Link to order your own Canvas Bags)
Magical Wish Journal
Paper to draw with crayons
Small Photo Album
1 pack of Guatemalan Worry Dolls or Popsicle Sticks & Yarn
8 Index Cards for Sad Busters
Introduce the task by explaining to the child that he/she is going to help child manage their “sad” feelings with the use of a special bag they will explore and create together. Continue to explain that within the bag there will be special skills for him/her to do when they have these feelings and don’t know how to express them. Order is not important.
Tear Pillow: Provide child with a blank pillow case and permanent markers, supervised of course. Explain that the tear pillow is used to help a child express their sadness verbally and to be used for self comfort and care. The child can write on the pillow “My Sad Pillow” and draw whatever they need to. Some children have made “a big cloud with a rainbow, with tear drops in it” and the child can rests their head on the cloud to “help hold their tears.” The parent/therapist/social worker can demonstrate first by placing their face in the middle of the pillow and start by making sounds of sadness i.e. sighing, boo-hoo-ing, modeling crying, all the while encouraging the child to express their feelings. Then as the child begins to feel more comfortable he/she can say words such as “I am sad” or “It’s not fair” or “I am hurt” or “I feel sad.” Child can keep the pillow on their bed to comfort them.
Magical Wish Journal: Provide child with a journal or note pad. The journal is used as a diary to express sad feelings. The child is told that the Magical journal can bring magic into their life when they write down their wishes. Whenever they write their wishes into their journal amazing things will happen, the angels will hear them and angels can only listen to Magic Wish journals. Sometimes so many angels hear them and their wishes come true. If the child wishes for a loved one to return, reassure the child “the angels will let them know how much they love them and miss them. And they will ask the angels to watch over them to keep them safe.”
Paper to Draw: Provide child with a drawing pad and crayons. Write on the front of the book PAPER TO DRAW MY SAD FEELINGS. The child is told the “Paper to Draw” is used to draw pictures about their sad feelings. The child can draw pictures of the person and event and/or write words which express his/her grief, loss and pain.
Small Photo Album: Provide child with a small photo album and photos or clippings of beautiful/soothing photos i.e. beautiful flowers, animals, children hugging, smiling faces etc. The photo album is used for the child to put pictures of people and/or things that make him/her happy. This can be “real” pictures of loved ones in their life or pictures of persons/places/things from magazines i.e. cartoon characters, flowers, funny pictures. The child can title the album i.e. “Things that make me smile” “The people who love me in my life.” “I am always loved.” “I can be happy.”
1 pack of Guatemalan Worry Dolls or make your own with Popsicle Sticks and Yarn: Provide child with worry dolls or popsicle sticks that they can draw faces on and wrap yarn around. Explain to that these “worry dolls” can be used to express their concerns, worries and fears. I like to introduce the dolls as “powerful Friends,” who can help us with our feelings but we have to tell them what we are upset about one by one so that they can discuss it that evening. The “powerful friends” must be placed under their pillow while they are sleeping and if they listen really hard they can hear them talking their sadness away and when they wake up in the morning they will feel better.
Bubbles Blow-away-disappear technique: Provide child with the bubbles. Explain that the bubbles are used for blowing their feelings “out of their body that they have been holding onto.” The child is instructed to sit down in a chair while performing this task. He/she is going to imagine seeing the stressful/sad feelings enter the bubble and then disappear when it pops. Encourage the child to focus, feel the lightness of the bubble gliding within their control. Each bubble he/she blows they watch until it pops, so that the child begins to regain focus and internalize a sense of calm and peace.
Sad Busters: Provide child with 10 index cards. Explain to the child that with the help of their parent/therapist/social worker they will create 3-8 “sad busters” which will help them manage their sad feelings. They will write or draw a picture of a “sad buster” on each card. These are stored in the bag and the child is told he/she can reach in the bag and pick one out at anytime and they will tell him/her what to do with their feelings.
Examples of Sad Busters are:
1. CROSS my ARMS around my body and give myself a big, BIG HUG!!!
2. SAY the TONGUE twister: “Silly sally, sang dilly dallies sitting on a swing.” OUT LOUD 10 times!!!
3. CRY on my Tear Pillow and let the RAINBOW catch my TEARS for me!!!
4. TAKE 5 deep breathes SLOWLY.
5. DRAW or WRITE my SAD feelings in my JOURNAL.
6. ASK my parent for a HUG!!!
7. GO to MY mirror and make a funny face REALLY BIG!!!
8. GO get my BUBBLES and BLOW 3 wishes into the air!!!
At the end all of the items are placed back in the bag and the child or parent/therapist/social worker writes on the outside of the bag “Things to do when I feel sad to make my broken heart feel glad!” The child keeps the bag within reach hanging on a door knob or hook in his/her room.