The beginning of the school year can be a tricky time for lots of children who struggle with transitions & new routines. For children who have experienced many changes & losses in the past & who are living with developmental trauma, it can be particularly scary & difficult.

Parents, carers & teachers need to be prepared to weather the transition storms! Look after yourselves so that you have the resources to take care of & contain your little people. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury & don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you who can help lighten the load.

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The Rabbit Listened

A small child called Taylor builds a wonderful castle & is feeling very proud. Without warning, disaster strikes & the wooden bricks come tumbling down. Nothing is as it was & all the animals try to make Taylor feel better. Chicken wants to talk; hyena wants to laugh about it & ostrich just wants to forget. When Taylor resists their advice, they drift away. Only rabbit comes & sits close by, warm & quiet. In time, Taylor expresses a whole range of emotions & rabbit just listens. Eventually, Taylor decides to build again, with a renewed sense of hope & excitement. This story is a beautifully simple tribute to the value of unconditional acceptance & the comfort to be found in attuned relationships.

It is very hard for parents & carers to see their child grieving. The temptation then, is to offer reassurance & distraction & to try to fix the problem. We do not want our child to hurt. This temptation is even greater for those parenting a child with developmental trauma, one who has had many losses & who can easily become overwhelmed by big emotions; struggling to self-regulate or make sense of feelings.

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Over The Rooftops, Under The Moon

A bird sits all alone in the flock. Then in the eyes of a little girl, they feel seen. Together, they explore & appreciate the detail of everything around them. With the bird’s awakening, their white feathers explode with colour when they least expect it. Time passes, the seasons shift & the bird travels far, across snow & through turbulent seas, to a warm place full of feathered friends. The words are lyrical & sparce, but the multi-layered story & rich illustrations speak of many things – understanding oneself & connection with others; the multi-faceted nature of identity & how our sense of belonging is ever changing throughout life.

Issues of identity can be confusing for care experienced & adopted children.  Many who come to family therapy are trying hard to understand their life history, exploring who they are & where they fit in. They can carry a sense of being to blame for their losses, of being bad or ‘other’. Like the bird, they can feel ‘far away inside & far away outside’. Part of any adoptive parent or carer’s role is to facilitate their child’s exploration of identity with love, & to bear witness to it. To acknowledge the rupture in belonging for a child who has been separated from their birth family & allow all thoughts & emotions to be voiced. Gently holding the past & making sense of how it shapes the present.

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Moffle Scavenger Hunt

Looking for simple activities for the summer holidays? Here are some Moffle Scavenger Hunt sheets – one to use indoors & one for the garden or park. The blank scavenger sheets are where you can add your own items to look for.

Scavenger hunts are a great way to encourage little ones to focus on the world around them & notice the little things. They also offer opportunities for building body awareness using the tactile system, by encouraging your child to touch things with different textures, shapes & sizes.

Suggestions for indoor objects to place on the list can include:

plastic or rubbery animals, building blocks, cotton balls, sponges, buttons, popcorn, dried beans, small craft pom-poms, dominoes, balloons, squeezy stress balls etc.

Understanding Parenting Anger

Holidays can be tricky, so perhaps a good time to think about parenting anger! Every parent & carer gets angry sometimes & conflict is a natural part of family life. The important thing is how we make up again, or ‘repair’ our relationship with our child. Understanding our own anger & helping our child make sense of it, is a useful part of repair. This is especially so for a child with an insecure attachment, for whom any conflict immediately becomes all about the relationship & their fear of losing you.

Dan Hughes identifies 3 main types of parenting anger:

Bad hair day – when it’s just an ‘off day’. It’s important to recognise when your patience is low & accept it. Own the anger, accept responsibility, & acknowledge it (I’m having an off day so it’s going to be hard for me to be patient with you). A child can accept this if they can then understand they aren’t being blamed.

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Listening to My Body

We see a little boy’s growing ability to listen to his own body & what it is telling him, as he makes connections between body sensations, emotions, thoughts & behaviour. On his journey of self-discovery, he rides his first rollercoaster; meets the challenge of finding his little sister has messed up his newly completed jigsaw puzzle & has his first day at school. The story & the practice activities encourage sensory awareness & mindfulness.  This picture book is a simple & helpful guide to becoming more aware of our inner world.

A child first learns about themself & the world around them in relationships with their main caregivers. Loving adults delight in their small child & provide lots of opportunities & commentaries to help their child to make sense of themselves & their experiences. They soothe their child when upset, angry or frightened & help them work out what they need. Through such interactions, the child learns how to self-regulate & becomes confident in understanding & trusting their own body & mind. A child with developmental trauma has not experienced enough good care or soothing early in life & may well have experienced abuse, so they can develop a very fragmented sense of self. They may shut down their capacity to feel sensations or emotions, to protect themselves from the painfulness of past experiences & a world perceived as a frightening & unsafe place.

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Curiosity puts the C in PACE!

Curiosity puts the C in PACE! It’s an attitude of not knowing & involves nothing more than a genuine desire to understand what might be going on for the child. It can involve making best guesses about what is happening. We convey our curiosity in a gentle, accepting tone & by tentatively wondering aloud about what the child’s experience might be.

Curiosity helps to increase our empathy for the child & our emotional connection with them. When we take time to explore what is going on behind the behaviour, it reduces the danger of us jumping too quickly to negative conclusions or responding from a place of anger or impatience.

Curiosity about why a child might be thinking or feeling the way that they do does not need to involve passing judgment. With curiosity, we can help figure out how their thoughts or feelings might have influenced their behaviour. This can be helpful for a child who genuinely doesn’t know why they behaved in a certain way, or who feels too ashamed to say why. The more they can articulate their thoughts & feelings, the less likely they are to act out behaviourally.

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What Color is Your Day?

The Moffles love connecting colours with emotions & body feelings & here is another beautiful picture book to help you do just that. There is a tender opening question to help us pause & reflect – what colour is your day, my love? – & an expression of unconditional positive regard – whatever you feel is beautiful, because it is you. The rhyming words & drifting, swirling shapes of the watercolour illustrations create a sense that emotions are layered, nuanced & constantly changing. We can watch them come & go, like clouds passing across the sun. This is a book that approaches our inner world in a gentle way, encouraging children to become curious about how they feel.

So many traumatised children have learned to lock their feelings away – in their heads or their hearts. In family therapy, we create stories to help make sense of why this might have happened. Often a child discovers that they found lots of ways to keep themself safe when they had no-one else to do this for them. They learned to feel nothing. We explore how this was very resourceful, when to feel emotions would have been so sad and scary and painful. Then we think about whether it is still helpful to them now. In their own time, we can find ways to practice opening to feelings again, so that their world can become more joyful & colourful.

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