Just the Two of Us: A Soft Place for Tender Hearts to Land.

 In Circle the Child, Weekly Forum Discussion

Written by: Nicolle Nattrass; Circle the Child

As I write this, I want to say first and foremost thank you for inviting me to share a blogpost. I am honoured to be invited into this incredible community and global network through the Children’s Wellness International.  Secondly, I am equally excited to share that by the time you read this, I will have successfully moved through the transition of a very new and for some of us, strange September.

Whether you are homeschooling or sending yours to school this fall, my heart and thoughts are with you as you process during this unprecedented time.

How do we process and land during this time? Of massive change and for some of us, increased stress on our families? Including our children? For me, I land on the page. My journal.

This is where I have found a soft place for myself and where I have spent the last 15 years professionally creating programs to support parents, counselors and children to explore the tool of Creative Journaling for Self-care. My professional expertise is a result of having been very fortunate to pursue two distinct and unique careers, Counseling, as an Addiction Counselor (CAC II) working frontlines in residential and aftercare treatment centres as well as a career in Theatre as a playwright, actor and instructor. Creative Journaling for Self-care has been the most beautiful and unexpected bridge for me.

Through-out my personal and professional life, I have used journaling to navigate and when Covid-19 hit, these thoughts came forward very clearly.

As both adults and children face this challenging time, it is vitally important to remember that children rely on the adults in their life to connect, to provide stability, and to monitor emotional and mental well-being. Concrete tools and healthy outlets are needed to guide, support, and help them process their inner world. With many recreational activities cancelled, lengthy quarantine and recommended social distancing, the options for children have become very limited. Now more than ever, there is a huge need to find alternative solutions that can soothe, relieve stress, provide enjoyment, and increase emotional wellness. In my experience as an addiction counselor, this need can be even greater for children who are experiencing any emotional distress, anxiety, trauma/ PTSD. The greater the trauma the more need the child may have to soothe, relieve stress, or escape from a range of feelings.

Living in a digital age where technology is a necessity and also a great distraction, many households may be relying on it even more during this pandemic, as an essential tool now for work, family connection, school lessons and social play dates etc. However, it is a necessity to offer something more than technology for children to use as an outlet. Overuse, reliance and dependence on technology is very prevalent. Internet and gaming addiction is on the rise. Technology can easily interfere with a child’s sense of family attachment, distract and replace quality time spent.

Creative Journaling offers an experiential hands-on activity that can be an outlet to restore mental and emotional health, stimulate creative imagination and open up an interaction where conversation can emerge. Scientific research has proven very clearly that journaling is beneficial to our mental and physical health by reducing stress.

My passion and belief in this journaling as a powerful tool combined with the onset of Covid-19, led me to write a Guidebook which I am thrilled to say, has just been published by Zebra Ink (New York).

It is called, Just the Two of Us (a soft place for tender hearts to land). This guidebook is a tender-hearted guide on how to use Creative Journaling as a key recovery tool to help children (age 4 and up) to connect and process stress, anxiety, trauma. A trauma-informed approach to using Creative Journaling as a soft place to land when feelings are too much, and words are not enough.

This book (40 pages Downloadable PDF) outlines how we can as parents and advocates for children, begin to effectively and mindfully the powerful tool of Creative Journaling with a tender-hearted, non-directive approach.  Without question, correction or instruction, the journal becomes the soft place to land and to lay what we need on the page. This trauma and tender-hearted approach encourages freedom, autonomy, positive self-expression and esteem, emotional literacy and ultimately builds resilience through healing connection.

The gift of this experience for children is to provide a place to allow the full expression of their feelings, whatever they might be, either joyful or traumatic. The journal is a grounding tool that provides a safe outlet to make sense of their world and enables a concrete experiential language to surface.

Below is an example of a journal entry, from my own parenting experience using journaling.

Journal Entry: August 20/2014/Age 5

The above photo:  This journal entry happened on a day where we could not find our cat, Ben. We spent a few fretful hours working through anxiety and searching for Ben. I took the lead to bring the journal to the kitchen table as I realized that no amount of words were able to console or change the situation or how my son was feeling. I chose to bring out paints and simply to lay a B on the page. This focused our energy. I kept adding to the letter “B” with different layers and colours as we talked through what was going on. There was frustration, fear and many tears that day. This page was later referred to as “This is the day Ben was lost and came home again.”

So what can we do here together this week, to experience the power of this type of journaling experience? Here’s my invitation:

I invite you to devote 10-20 minutes to BE with a Journal on a table together,  side by side or across the table, adult and child. You might want to gather and use what is around you to use or simply your favourite pen or pencil. This is not about the perfect pens or stickers or experience. It is about being present, give full attention not distraction to exploring on the page. See what emerges, follow it, there is no right or wrong. No force, no expectation and not performance based in any way.  No need for direction or values placed, just being free to explore and play with what happens. Each journal experience will be unique due to the quality of time together, individual relationships and what is occurring at the present time. As seen by the example that I shared, we specifically used the journal to hold the stress and worry of our missing cat.

Remember: this is not a forced or directed time to DO. Experience. Be present. Be free.

Thank you for joining me this week. Where can this new experience take you and your child?

Go ahead and try this at home!


To meet Nicolle Natrass, in virtual-person click here. Or here to find her on Facebook!



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