I’ll be honest. We’ve been on vacation for 2 weeks and the last part of it has been staying at home. A majority of our time during these two weeks have been monsoon rain storms. It seems no matter where we went, rain followed. I am sick of rain, and I think we are all beginning to get sick of each other. The boys are fighting, I am finding reasons to run an errand (surely we need something from the store, right?), and Matt is taking as many naps as possible before returning back to work. So when I started to think about what play therapy technique I was going to share with you today… well, let’s just say I was not sure I was up for “playing” with anyone. But, I try to be a woman of my word… so I needed something that took little effort from all of us. After some research, I found one using Pick Up Sticks! Thankful for having some of these annoying little sticks that seem to find themselves all over the house, I grabbed them and headed up to the boys room. If you don’t have these, you can make paper strips, use different color straws, or goodness… I bet I could have used Lego Bricks and had them build a tower as they chose their colors.
So if you don’t know how to play Pick up Sticks, it’s pretty easy. The game has a bunch of sticks made up with at least five colors. You drop all of the sticks into a pile on the table (a carpeted floor seems to work better for us). One at a time, each person takes turns picking up one of the sticks, hopefully without moving/disturbing any of the other sticks. In this version, we all agree what feeling goes with each color (blue= sad, red=angry, yellow=happy/excited, and my boys wanted green=sick and black=nervous). It doesn’t matter what you decide, as long as you all agree. Hearing them decide what colors go with which feeling can give you great feedback into what they might be feeling or have been lately. Here is the color-chart I referenced in day 1.
Once you decide, you can start the game, but as you choose a stick to pick up, you have to describe a time when you felt that feeling. So if you pull blue, you have to describe a time when you felt sad. As simple as this is (I was certainly thankful!), it can give you great insight to experiences your child has had.
In our stack of sticks, there was one black. Normally worth 50 points, it’s the one everyone goes for. Aidan for some reason kept going for this one even though it was at the bottom of the stack. You can get a lot from watching which colors children go for and which they try to avoid. Although I am sure he was conditioned to go for the black one, I could tell once he finally got it that he had a lot to process. He certainly tends to be the “nervous” type. He was the one to first name the black one “Nervousness” and even though Jack disagreed (he wanted mad), once Jack tried to name the red one, he conceded with Aidan.
When it came time to play the game, any fly on the wall could have told you we were all kind of tired of each other. As we chose our sticks we all kept getting stuck on green. I mean how many times can you conjure up feelings of “sickness”? I made a reference to one of my experiences where I was actually nervous, but felt sick in my stomach. For a moment, we talked about how when you keep bad feelings inside, it can sometimes make your stomach (or body) feel “yucky” and maybe even sick.
By the end, we had shared with each other moments of upcoming nervousness (of course about moving), and moments of joy (my favorite). Sad feelings revolved around the end of the school year last year. I don’t know if they would have had the same experience in a civilian school, but we were blessed this last year to have teachers who really care about our military kids. Jack’s kindergarten teacher had a PhD in Education, her dissertation on “Military kids During Deployment” (that will certainly not happen ever again!). They both were sad to say goodbye to their teachers, but it also meant saying goodbye to fellow students who might move during the summer.
Our time together today was brief, but it was a great reminder that just when you think you are needing a break, 5 minutes of playtime can completely change your perspective on your relationship with your kids. Isn’t that the message of quality time? Anything of “quality” is good, pure, and full of something, otherwise it wouldn’t be “quality” right? Whether it’s five minutes of what Matt and I like to call “face-time” with your spouse, your children, or with God- it can sometimes be exactly what you need to change your attitude.
What do you do when you are sensing your family needs a break from each other?