As we navigate challenging circumstances, it can be easy to lose sight of our strengths. When things are hard or overwhelming, we might feel helpless, defeated, or discouraged. Personally, I have noticed that my inner critic has been working overtime while I hang out in self-isolation! Insecurities have popped up that I haven’t thought about in years. Have you noticed this in yourself or your kiddo?
This is a totally normal response to a crisis or a situation that is beyond our control, for adults but especially for little ones! Children are at a developmental stage where they see and interpret their world through an egocentric lens, which means that in their mind everything is about them. They do this for survival, and it’s something that shifts with brain development as they get older. But because of this, children interpret every event as somehow being their fault.
For example, we are collectively practicing social distancing right now. As adults we can understand that social distancing is for the greater good, and that we are participating to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and help keep ourselves and others safe. Even though a child may have been told these facts, it is likely that inside they feel on some level that their friends don’t WANT to spend time with them, or that their teacher is mad, or that they are in trouble when they can’t play at the park.
With all this going on, I think it’s safe to assume that self-esteem is pretty low right now. Time to call in the superheroes! And I don’t mean Spiderman or WonderWoman (although I’m a huge fan of them).
We have been talking a lot about heroes during the pandemic. We’ve identified frontline workers, healthcare providers, and essential service workers as heroes, and they absolutely are. But I think that you and your kiddo have superpowers too. And these powers are qualities you already have and probably use every day.
Simply identifying your strengths as superpowers can help you and your child to think about your everyday actions in a new way, and shift the energy from a place of defeat to a place of empowered purpose and confidence.
So for this week’s art activity, let’s explore your everyday superhero identity and make a superhero mask together!
Let’s make a superhero mask!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A scrap piece of paper and a pencil
- Scissors and/ or an exacto knife (used only with caregiver assistance!)
- A piece of thin cardboard (cereal boxes or other food packaging works great)
- Pipe cleaners, string, or ribbon
- Materials to decorate your mask! This can be anything. Can you think of creative ways to use what you have? Here are a few examples:
- Craft materials like pom poms, buttons, feathers, pipe cleaners, stickers
- Nature materials (twigs, leaves, feathers)
- Recycled materials (scraps of newspaper, cardboard, bottle caps, egg cartons)
- Found objects (little toys, buttons, fabric scraps)
- Adhesive to attach decorations (glue stick, white glue, or a glue gun used with caregiver assistance)
Here’s what you do:
First, identify what your everyday superpowers are. I recommend using character strengths as the basis for your superpowers. These are things that are inherently part of WHO you are as a person. (So rather than your power being that you can run really fast, instead maybe identify a power like being a loyal friend.)
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Optimistic/ hopeful
Next, create a name for your superhero alter ego. For example, I chose my power of resourcefulness. This means that I’m good at finding creative ways to use what I have, and I can use this same spirit to help me to think of ideas for solving problems. My everyday superhero character is Resourceful Rubi.
Some other examples are Captain Kindness, Super Sharer, or Henry the Helpful.
Now that you have an everyday superhero alter ego, create a superhero mask for your character.
Start by creating a template using a scrap piece of paper. Draw a rough mask shape, and then cut it out using scissors. Hold it up to your face and test out the size. Use a pencil to gently mark where the eye holes should go. Carefully cut out the eye holes. Caregiver assistance is required for this part! (If you are unsure about how to draw a rough mask template, a Google search for “superhero mask template” will bring up tons of examples, some with free downloads.)
Once you are happy with the shape of your mask, trace it onto your piece of cardboard. Carefully cut out the mask shape using scissors or an exacto knife (with an adult’s help!).
Poke or punch holes in the sides of the mask. Attach pipe cleaners, ribbon, or string so that you can wear your mask. If you don’t have anything to make holes in the cardboard, you can attach the pipe cleaners with tape or glue instead. You can also attach a popsicle stick and create a masquerade-style mask if you or your kiddo don’t feel comfortable wearing the mask.
Decorate your mask! Think about your superpower, and add decorations inspired by your power. To reflect my power of resourcefulness, I used recycled materials. I created some cardboard flowers and leaves, attached some odd buttons, and collaged over the main part of the mask with newspaper bits. The decorations on the mask remind me that I can use whatever I have around me to make art. I am resourceful!
Try on your mask and see how it feels! Take some photos posing as your superhero. Maybe even play an imaginary game together and create a story about your superhero characters!
Keep your mask as a reminder of your superpowers that you can use any time, every day!
- Read a story or watch a movie about a superhero for inspiration. When I share this project with clients in the art room, we usually start by reading these books (pictured below) about kids with everyday powers including helping, listening, sharing, and being kind. After reading the stories, we talk about how the characters used their powers for good. It’s okay to use the same powers that we find in example superheroes. Kindness is one of my all-time favourite superpowers!
- Draw your superhero alter ego. Go beyond the mask and design the full look! Does your superhero have a cape? Special boots? A fire-resistant suit?
- Create a superhero family portrait. Come up with an everyday superhero identity for each family member, and then draw a picture of all your heroes doing something together.
Rationale (here’s why I love this activity):
- It’s fun! In my experience most children really like this activity. They are often amazed by the idea that they can be like a superhero. They get so excited about their powers and can’t wait to use them!
- It shifts the focus from negative to positive. This activity can be especially helpful after a rough day or a time of disconnection, perhaps if kiddos have been arguing or getting into trouble. Shifting the focus to your child’s positive qualities and inherent strengths reminds them that they have the power to make great choices and to contribute positively to their environment.
- It builds self-esteem. Everyday superpowers are based on our inherent qualities that don’t depend on achievement or performance. Being kind is part of who we are. We can be kind no matter what’s happening around us. It inspires our behaviour, but it’s part of our character. This is a firm foundation on which to build genuine self-esteem.
- It reminds us of what we can control. Superheroes RESPOND to events beyond their control. They show up in times of need and often solve problems or fix messes that they did not create. We didn’t get to choose our current situation, and we have very little control over what might happen next. But we always have control over our responses.We can choose to respond to our current situation with kindness, resourcefulness, and a helpful spirit.
- It can inspire us to make positive choices and act from a place of kindness and confidence.
Some things you might talk about:
- What everyday powers are front-line workers, healthcare providers, and essential service workers demonstrating? What makes them heroes?
- Where did your superpower come from? Who taught you this amazing power? (eg. My parents are incredibly resourceful. Throughout my childhood they encouraged me to use what I have and be creative, and I watched them do the same. My superpower came from the lessons they taught me.)
- How can you use your superpower today? What’s one practical thing you can do? (eg. I can use my powers of resourcefulness to think of a way to show my friend I am thinking of them and wish them a happy birthday, even though we can’t celebrate the way we usually do.)
- When a challenging situation arises, how would your superhero identity respond? (eg. if your kiddos are fighting, invite Captain Kindness to respond. Ask “How can you use your superpower of kindness in this situation?”)
- How does it feel to use your superpowers?
I would LOVE to see your masks and hear about your superpowers! You can send me an email anytime, or we can connect on Instagram (@resourcefulmearttherapy).
See you next week!
Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT