Bouncing Away – The ups and downs of life and how to deal with them

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Introduction

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from life’s ups and downs. It can also be about bouncing forward to new opportunities and challenges. Resilience is something that we can develop over our lifetime through open expression of feelings in a supportive environment. The project was a collaborative process involving three groups of children from the Sligo area together with an artist and a writer. The groups were coordinated by the HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, HSE Community Psychology and St. Edward’s National School. The children’s ages ranged from eight to twelve years old. The project focused on engaging children in an artistic process over eight weeks, one session per week with each group. It is the voices of the children, their unique contributions and sharing of their stories that guided the concept of the book. Throughout the eight weeks a platform was provided for the children in a safe and caring environment. The focus of the work was on building confidence, fostering self-esteem and developing alternative ways of expressing themselves through art and story telling. This book is a sharing of each child’s individual story and their experiences of what helped and supported them. It aims to illustrate the children’s emotional journey in a relatable manner through the medium of art and literature. It is hoped that ‘Bouncing Away’ will be a gift to all children. Dr. Marian Duggan, Senior Clinical Psychologist Gráinne Roche, Senior Occupational Therapist Sandra Gray, Psychologist Elizabeth Henry, Social Care Leader/Play Therapist

All work in this book has been created under a pseudonym chosen by the children themselves.

This book was made by children for children. It is a culmination of young people’s artwork and stories that are individual and reflective of their lives. It will serve as a resource for young people to explore themes of resilience, to encourage its readers to talk about their feelings, the ups and downs that life can bring, and how we cope and bounce with them. It is hoped that it will be a starting point for many discussions.


Bouncing Away The ups and downs of life and how to deal with them

Published by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership Carrigeens, Ballinful, Co. Sligo T: 00353 71 91 24945 • W: www.kidsown.ie • E: info@kidsown.ie ISBN:9781902433073 ©Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership 2015 Front cover image by Kaitlyn

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Foreword from the artist This project was approached with openness and curiosity and with a particular eye on feeling safe. What makes us feel safe? And what does that look like? When we feel comfortable and at ease, we can express ourselves without worry. Creating a place of safety and comfort and all the things that come with that is different for everyone - we explored this first as groups and then each on our own creating our own spaces for creative freedom. Once we knew ‘where’ we were and got to know each other a bit better, we delved into the world of emotional things and events and how this might look. Drawing is a powerful ally and a great way of showing what something might look like if we let it out. We explored this in big marks and endless variety of line and intention. Sometimes words cannot say what we mean and we can often surprise ourselves, even with how beautiful anger can look! Discovering the things around us that help or hinder us, what we can do for ourselves when we are sad or troubled, or what could help someone else, was endlessly fascinating, often surprising, and came in many forms. The children taught me an incredible amount, and I hope through all the laughter, play, making and sharing, that they learned something too. They taught me how resilient we all are and can be and how to really value this crucial and wonderful skill we all possess! Vanya Lambrecht Ward Artist

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Foreword from the writer Over eight weeks in late 2014, twenty-one young people volunteered to participate in an adventure of images, words and revelations in order to share their thoughts on resiliency with others. This ‘Council of Youngers’ was brave indeed! For me, it was an unforgettable experience and I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Moments of sharing wisdom, laughter, discovery, and even grieving, were echoed by visual creation – and inspired by that process. At these moments I felt privileged to merely take dictation. Folding the writing process carefully into the act of artistic creation using visual word games, group discussions or quiet moments of reflection were some of the many inventive ways their writings were created. What struck me most was the trust that was built amongst peers. Conversation and playfulness was freely expressed within each of the three groups – giving all a chance to listen, and to be heard. The process is infinitely adaptable in any context: using visual art and language as both expressions and as a means to open ourselves and others. Our young collaborators honoured their own life-changing moments, losses, revelations, joys, and loves, while sharing valuable coping skills. The writing that resulted was often uniquely inventive. I’d like to thank Vanya Lambrecht Ward for being the perfect partner for this adventure. We facilitated each other’s craft while in the delicate business of directing a project that called for us to be both supportive and almost invisible. Thank you to Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, for liaising on all sides and producing this beautiful book; to Niamh O’Connor, for her long efforts to see this book to fruition; to the HSE for funding, and the mental health professionals who supervised these creative sessions: Marian Duggan, Elizabeth Hannon Henry, Gráinne Roche and Sandra Gray. Your presences, input and feedback, were an essential part of this creative project. Lisa Vandegrift Davala Writer

kaitlyn

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Our feelings and emotions

“When I feel...” 6


emotions that we put on paper and brought alive.

These are

We pulled the emotions from our head and pressed them onto the paper. Zoe

zoe

When I feel love I feel warm and passionate

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When I feel angry I stop smiling and become very quiet. Sometimes I feel angry and sad at the same time. Tony

Sleeping makes you calm. Kaitlyn

When I’m happy I play with my friends. When I’m sad, I tell my dad. Sam

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josephine

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When I’m angry I have it in my mind and I don’t show it because I try and help myself calm down. When I feel silly I would get red in the face. Deborah

Sometimes I try to blow my head up with anger but all it does is hurt. Kaitlyn

When I’m angry I want to bite my sister’s head off. When I feel silly I feel cheerful and I feel like joking a lot. Kaitlyn

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When I feel happy I jump up and down and say yayy! When I am angry I slam the door of my bedroom. When I feel loved or love, I hug someone When I am lonely I sulk in my room I know I am afraid when I start shaking and my eyes widen Steve

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kurby


I am worried that I would have to share a room with my sister because she stays up all night and I don’t get any sleep, and I might fall asleep in school. I told my mum about my worry and she swapped me and my brother and now I have my own room. Advice: Talk to someone! Josephine

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When I love something I feel happy. You know you love something when you want to go back to it. Katie

josephine


When I’m in my friend’s dad’s car and he is going really quickly, that’s when I get worried. Pat

I know I am feeling afraid when I am being yelled at. Sometimes I feel like shouting at my parents. I know I am feeling afraid when I am alone in the house. When I feel happy I give someone a smile. When I feel loved I give a hug if it is my mum. When I feel lonely I go and talk to someone. Kurby

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minnie


My dad has had three heart attacks. He had to go to the hospital. I was in school when it happened. I didn’t get to see him or my mum either. I didn’t know what happened. My aunt had to tell me. When my mum got finished work she had to go up to the hospital. Then a day later he had to go up to Dublin. I didn’t get to go up to the hospital before he left but my mum and sister did. And that felt like it was really unfair. It made me sad. And when he came back from Dublin, he had to spend another day in hospital. And then he came back home. We were out playing with my cousin. It was meant to be a surprise, but we came up to the house. Then we saw dad but he had to wear slippers (he usually wears runners or cowboy boots) and he had to be very careful that he didn’t trip over the mat. Lucy

I was sad when my mum and dad got divorced. My mum helped me through that time. We were living in France at the time and had to move back to Ireland. If you talk about it, you let it all out, so that somebody else knows and understands. Steve

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steve

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I get worried about getting too much schoolwork. I worry about Parent Teacher meetings and getting in trouble for messing. When you are worried about tests, you can think about other stuff and say to yourself that you will still get a good result. Jimmy

One day I was angry and I sorted it out with my dad. I told him about my feelings. Sam

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jimmy


Doing different things can change how we feel I feel good when I’m in my café! I’d have a bit of chicken and fish, potatoes, pasta... Sometimes I fix breakfast with cereal, yogurt and toast and a drink of orange juice. Michael

“I feel good when...” 18

Michael


katie

The reason I built the boxing ring is because

I love boxing because it makes me happy. I love boxing.

It also keeps me fit and motivated. Always when I’m finished I’m really tired. The dream room in my house would be a boxing room. You have to be very fit to box. You have to control your punches so you don’t hurt people.

Katie

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When I am happy I play with my cat. One day while I was playing with my cat, I bought my cat a big toy mouse. When I held it in my hand she jumped on to the couch I was on. She lay on my stomach and fell asleep. I love her with all my heart and I never want for her to go. There is no cat better than my cat. Pat

pat

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Playing football helps me work with others and makes me happy. Jimmy

kurby

Well, what makes me happy is when I come home from school and my dog jumps on me, and we go play fetch outside.

Lucy

I like art. I like that it is so creative. Making art makes me happy. Kayla

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Going on the trampoline, bouncing away, it just helps me. Roman


When I feel happy I put on music and dance to it. I eat sweets and listen to music. I punch my pillow when annoying people make me angry. This happens when my brother annoys me. When I am loved I think about it. My family make me feel loved and I daydream about it. When I am lonely I play and pet my guinea pig. I text my friends. Hermione

Hermione

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I had a dog. He makes me feel better when I’m sad, lonely, scared, frightened. But today he has been sold. It makes me really, really sad because he was the best dog in the world. But I am also happy because he’s a springer spaniel/collie and he’s supposed to be on a farm and we don’t have space. So I’m happy that he’s going to be happy, but I’m sad for me, because I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know it is for the best. Before he went, he took my pink sock and jumped into the boot of the car. I told him that he was going to a nice home and that “I love you”. My dad said that the dog would never forget me – he will just forget the house. Zoe

When I’m happy I play with my cats. Pat

kaya zoe

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I feel better when I walk with my dog. I feel better when I play with my Lego. I feel better when I read books.

I feel better when I play with my ball. I feel better when I play with my teddies. Kayla

kayla

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tony

I like the Ironman movies and the Avengers because Tony Stark is in them. Tony propels himself with propulsors in his hands and feet. I like him because we both have mobility decisions and the joy of flying with the use of technology. I’d love to have a suit like his. I like the feeling that the quad gives me. I can go anywhere with it really. Tony

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When I am happy I take my dog for a walk. I like rubbing the cat. When I am outside I like riding my bike everyday except for school days. I like going into granny and granddad’s because I play with my dog, and she (the dog) goes on the trampoline. I love running around the house twenty times because it is fun. And I love airplanes, do you know why? Because I love when they start up and they go up in the air and I’m afraid they might fall. Roman

roman

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When I feel happy I jump around and sing (yes sing) and smile and feel really excited. When I am lonely I go and play with my cat and try to find some cookies. If I’m home alone, I’ll talk to myself because I like hearing someone else’s voice when I’m in the house alone, even if it’s just the radio or TV. Kaya lucy

My dog One night it was very windy and my dad forgot to let my dog in. When we were all asleep the wind broke the latch off the gate and the next morning he was gone. We were all very sad, but my little brother didn’t know. My mum didn’t want to upset him so she told him that the dog went with his girlfriend, but after a month, we got a new dog and having her is like having a memory of my old dog. Lucy

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Precious things and how they make us feel

josephine

I have a collage of photos in my bedroom because it has all the important and personal pictures. My most precious one is the one of my great granddad on my mum’s wedding day. There is a picture next to it of me, and it looks like I am giving him a kiss on the cheek. I love the picture because it reminds me of him. It is very special to me. Josephine

“My favourite thing is...” 28


I really like books, because they remind me of

things in life,

but most of all, they make me laugh. Dennis

dennis

I have a picture of me and my best friend in the hospital, on the day I was born, and we are still best friends today. I love this picture because she is my best friend. Minnie

minnie

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The picture I have of my granddad is really precious to me and reminds me of him, because he passed away three years ago. It reminds me of the good times when I played chess with him and I lost every time! Kurby

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kurby


steve

I have a picture of my mum and dad and me in France at a place called “Park Stanislaus� in a town called Nancy. This picture is special to me because my mum and dad were together, but a few years later they got divorced. Steve

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My favourite thing is little tiny puppies. This is a castle and it has men and guard dogs and little baby guard dogs. Sam

sam

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jimmy

My favourite item is my hurl. It’s my favourite item because I won the championship, and the Urban League with it this year. And I got it off one of the seniors. I get worried before a match. When I get worried before a match, I say, “I am stronger than that.” Jimmy

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Before my auntie went off to the army, she gave me this little glass love heart, to remember her until she comes back. Lucy

lucy

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Mr. Munchers – the lizard I got him on my birthday. He lived in a glass tank. He chases after his lunch of crickets. I like his skin because it is colourful, and his skin has lumps for protection – it looks like armour. Isaac


Besides my family, my cat is the most special thing alive for me. He is black and white, and was a stray when we got him. If I’m bored I go and play with my cat. I like taking a piece of string and dragging it across the floor. Kayla

kaya

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What helps you feel safe, happy and secure? our collective thoughts

kaitlyn

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Space away from the world

deborah

My colourful and graceful house. I had the idea of a chair off the ground for my house because I will feel like I am floating. And I feel relaxed. I am going to have a kitten bed for my kitten and I am going to have a bowl of water and food for her, and toys. I will also have a horse with a stable and some apples and some carrots for the horse. Deborah 37


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Privacy

A happy place is

calm.

You need a safe space

when you worry too much.

Shelter because you are with someone. Shelter keeps you dry and keeps you from getting homeless.

A pet room where you can go with your pets and stroke them. Laptop to play on. A closet for play with pencils and art supplies, jewellery and dresses. My dog. He will bite anyone who beats me. He A burglar alarm. protects me. A place that’s warm. A place to eat. A shower.

The best room is a family room with

cosy family time. 39


How we deal with our feelings

When I feel angry, I feel it inside me. (What helps is) taking time out on my own. Then I can calm down. Then I can come back in (to the group). When I feel angry I just play with Lego. Some people say you should breathe slow, but I breathe fast because it calms me down, but it puts my breath away. When I get upset I just go into my room and wait until all the tears are done with.

Luke

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luke


Everybody gets angry sometimes. Hitting is hard to stop. Sleeping helps. Sometimes when I am angry I go to bed and go to sleep.

Isaac

“We can change how we feel by how we think” If you’re feeling sad the things that make me happy are doing my favourite things, like reading. If you’re worried about someone or something, there is always an adult that you can talk to. If you’re angry and you’re trying to calm down, the things I do are take deep breaths and relax. If you’re bullied and you don’t like that, tell a teacher, parent or friend. And always tell someone, otherwise things won’t get any better. If you feel you can’t make any friends, and you see some kids playing a game, ask if you could join in. Joining in other people’s games is a great way to make friends. Dennis

isaac

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The advice I would give to kids who get bullied is: Don’t listen to what the bullies say. Remember everybody is different, not weird. Remember that everybody has different things that work for them (in order) to stop worrying. But I would recommend reading a book, listening to relaxing music, cuddling a teddy, if it works for you. Try listening to music and eating sweets. Remember: Forget the bullies because somebody loves you. Hermione

Better things come out of things that happen if you look at things in a good way. Zoe

kurby

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kaya

When I feel angry or if somebody steps over this imaginary line in my brain, I feel like hurting them but probably I would jump into my bed and scream (or something like that). Sometimes I feel really angry, like when my Mum tells me what to do, and I bite my shirt sleeve rather than hitting. Kaya

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Rubbing people on the back cheers them up. Heartbroken means when you’re sad. I was heartbroken when the cat died. When I’m happy, it just pops up in my chest – my heart glued together, not broken. Roman


What helps when I’m scared: When my teddy is beside me. When I am beside my dog. When I am with my mum, she gives me hugs. When I go on the trampoline, it bounces my scaredness

away and it gets my happiness back in. I’m worried when I’m alone because I want someone to be with me – like my dog. I get worried about witches and ghosts. I get worried in the dark. I got worried when it was my first day at school. I was worried about new stuff because I get sometimes scared and shaky. Roman

My brother had chickens. Breathing in and out One night during the deeply, slowly, can summer, the fox took all six chickens. This was not really help to reduce stress. the first time. Maybe it is Kaitlyn good in one way. Maybe roman the mother fox needed to feed her young. My advice would be to see the glass half full instead of half empty. Tony If you get grounded, you can finish reading your book, if you want. Josephine 44


My Worries and how to deal with them. 1. I worry that someone in my family might die. How I deal with this is by talking to someone else about it. 2. Poor people. I worry about the poor people, like in Africa, because I see them on TV feeling sad. How I deal with this is by thinking about how good it is giving them money and giving them presents at Christmas. 3. Bullies. I worry about being bullied because bullies make fun of people. How I deal with that is ignoring them. Dennis’s advice: Tell someone about your worries, like your parents, and then you’ll feel better. Think about good things. Say for instance, if you are worried about sleeping, just close your eyes and relax and think about good things – like a good book. Dennis

michael

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How to use the book - A guide for adults Although children can read ‘Bouncing Away’ on their own, we have compiled some helpful suggestions for adults who want to support children to explore some of the ideas in the book or to facilitate discussion with a child or group of children.

Questions to pick up on specific themes: Some of the children mention controlling breathing to calm down. What do you do to calm your emotions? (You could try some relaxation techniques together such as taking deep breaths.)

The creativity of the children who made this book is an integral part of this project and so we suggest an open-ended approach to discussion to explore the text and images. Open-ended questions will allow the child to use their own resources to figure out or imagine what they might do in similar circumstances or if indeed they think that it’s a good idea to seek advice from a trusted adult.

Hermione gives lots of examples of things you can do to stop worrying like ‘listening to relaxing music’ and reminds us that we are all different (‘not weird’). And so different things work for different people. What works for you? Lots of children in the book love their cats. What precious thing is really important to you? (You could suggest making a picture or model in clay or plasticine etc. of favourite things).

General discussion questions: Step 1. The senses. What do you remember from the book (the factual things we can tell from our senses) e.g. “I saw a picture of someone with a helmet”. What else did you see, hear, touch etc. while reading the book? Step 2. Feelings. What feelings did you notice? Did you smile at any time? Did you frown or feel sad? Children can talk about their feelings. What emotions do we feel? Step 3. Making connections. Did any of the pictures or stories remind you of anything? Do some of the children talk about the same things? Did you ever draw a picture or write a story about a feeling? Step 4. Decision-making. What activity do you do that makes you feel the happiest? Are there any suggestions in the book that would work for you, if you were feeling worried or angry? What would help to make you bounce through the ups and downs of life?

Hermione’s advice about eating sweets as a comfort against bullying and ignoring the bully (p. 42) contrasts with Dennis’s advice to tell someone (p. 41). What advice would you give?

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Developing resilience in your child When you take time to listen and encourage your child to express both positive and negative feelings, you are building a trusting relationship that will aid communication in the coming years. This book may be used to aid the beginning of a conversation about different types of feelings that your child may have as they navigate the ups and downs of their childhood years. Speak about your own feelings: We would encourage you to speak about your feelings in an age appropriate way with your children (e.g. “I felt a bit annoyed when I didn’t get all my work done today”). This helps to model the expression of feelings, and normalises the process for your child. Try to avoid speaking about adult issues (e.g. financial worries) in front of your child. Children at this age often think in black and white terms, and can jump to the worst case scenario very quickly (e.g. Mum has to go to the doctor, can translate to: something really bad is going to happen to Mum). Build your child’s ‘toolkit’: Feelings are valid. However, few people want to stay sad or scared or angry. Offer your children several ways to calm themselves. For example,“You look scared, do you want a hug, or maybe you can take some deep breaths?” You might also ask them to draw a picture of how they feel, or to listen to a guided relaxation for children. Try to find what works for your child to help to soothe and comfort them.

Respecting feelings: Even the uncomfortabl ones: Children often hide their true feelings for fear of making their parents worried or annoyed. Adults are not always comfortable speaking to young children about feelings such as fear, anger, jealousy or loneliness. Adults can sometimes respond with words that aren’t very helpful to the child such as “You shouldn’t feel that way”. Instead of blocking the expression of negative feelings, allow them to ‘vent’ and let them do most of the talking. Often times, children prefer parents to just listen rather than to leap to problem solving mode. Allowing your child to express their feelings in a healthy way will help them to understand that these feelings pass. This will reduce the likelihood of them expressing their feelings in an unhealthy way, such as through behavioural outbursts. Learning to listen: If your child expresses negative feelings, we would encourage you to respond in a way that will open the gates of communication, rather than shut them, e.g. If your child states that they hate school, you could ask “What is it that you hate about school”? You can listen to your child and acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t agree with their perspective on a situation. Creating patterns of communication at an early age will help to build more resilient teenagers and adults. As children face more grown up challenges, they are more likely to communicate with you rather than bury them inside. 47




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