Last week we looked for the silver lining during our time in self isolation and celebrated moments of connection by making a Self-Isolation Memory Book. I invited you to see lockdown life from a bit of a different angle, and to notice all of the creative potential it might hold.
However, being at home for weeks on end without seeing teachers, coaches, colleagues or friends has its CHALLENGES! There’s also a lot of potential for frustration and cabin fever. So this week, we’re making room for the stuff that sucks about lockdown life.
Today I’m inviting you and your child to create your own bug collection. The idea is that each insect represents something about our current situation that’s been “bugging you.” Your collection might have an “I miss my friends” bug, an “Online learning is hard” bug, or an “I want to go to the playground!” bug.
These things are beyond our control, and there’s no solution or way to fix them. That’s okay. Sometimes just naming what’s hard and having a safe place to put it can make all the difference. That’s the power of acknowledgement.
If we don’t take the time to name and recognize the things that are bugging us, often our frustration comes out in indirect ways, like being grumpy with each other, or overreacting to little unrelated challenges. This can cause hurt, conflict, and misunderstanding with our children, during a time when we are literally all that they’ve got.
Instead, if we are able to talk with our kiddos and acknowledge what’s really bugging them (and us!), we can get back on the same team. It’s less about problem solving, and more about saying together “Right now this feels really hard.”
I’ve tried this with a few of my little clients, and you know what the coolest part is? As soon as we name the tough stuff and connect about how much it sucks, my little clients (on their own, without any prompting from me) almost immediately think of something positive. They find something to be thankful for, or think of a way that they’re adapting to the challenges.
It’s kind of like when we offer a safe space for the negative, we also create room for the positive.
So, let’s make a bug collection!
Here’s what you need:
- Some paper to draw on (or the “What’s bugging you?” template)
- Drawing materials (markers, pencil crayons, crayons)
- A mason jar
- Some netting to cover the top of the jar (optional)
Here’s what you do:
Draw some bugs! Make spiders, moths, beetles, ladybugs, or your own imaginary creations!
If drawing bugs feels challenging or overwhelming, you can print a copy of my “what’s bugging you today?” template. Click here to download the PDF.
This template gives you some basic bug shapes to start with, but you and your child can personalize, accessorize, name, and colour them!
Think of some things that have been “bugging you” lately. (My recommendation is to focus on external things, rather than things about another person. For example, try “It’s hard to only play with my family” instead of “My sister is mean.” This will hopefully keep the focus on the situation and avoid hurting each other’s feelings.)
Give each of your insects a name based on what’s been bugging you.
Here are a few ideas from my bug collection:
- “I miss school” bee
- “Everything is different” snail
- “What if I get sick?” spider
- “I feel mixed up” ant
- “It’s a weird birthday!” ladybug
- “I don’t want to do schoolwork!” moth
- “I miss the art room” bug
- “I want to go to the library!” centipede
- “I miss my friends” beetle
- “No one to play with” spider
Think about colour and design for each bug. Does the “I miss my friends” beetle have a tear drop pattern? Does the “I feel mixed up” ant have mixed up colours on its back? Design your bugs to match their names.
Cut out your bugs. You can cut them into unique shapes, or just cut along the dotted lines of the template to create rectangles.
Talk about your bugs. Share them with each other. Focus on acknowledging and validating tough feelings, instead of problem solving.
Find a jar where you can keep your bug collection safe. If you have some netting (mine is from food packaging), you can cut a piece and then secure it underneath the outer ring of the Mason jar lid. This makes some “air holes” for the bugs, but still keeps them inside. I like the idea of taking care of our bugs, since they are kind of a part of us.
Place your bugs in the jar, one at a time. As you put them inside the jar, you can let go of them a little bit. They are now outside of you, in the world, being contained and held in a safe special place.
You can add more bugs to your bug jar any time you think of one!
Check in with how you feel now. Has anything shifted? How did it feel to name those bugs together and acknowledge the challenging parts of your current situation?
Here’s a video recap of the process. Click the circle in the middle to play!
- Instead of drawing your bugs, make some fingerprints using paint or a stamp pad. Use a pen or marker to add legs, antennae, and wings to turn the fingerprints into insects.
- Make 3-dimensional bugs using popsicle sticks, pompoms, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners. Write what’s bugging you on the back of the popsicle stick.
Rationale (here’s why I love this activity):
When there are things we can’t control, situations we can’t change, or problems we can’t really solve, it feels so good to just name what’s happening and acknowledge our feelings. Instead of rushing to find the positive or to move away from negative feelings like anger or disappointment, if we instead give some space to these tricky feelings, they tend to have a way of shrinking.
It’s the opposite of what we might expect. When we make room for the negative, we can take a breath, and suddenly the negative thing doesn’t feel so bad. It’s because we are accepting its right to exist, without attaching judgement. But if we try to ignore the negative, it tends to get bigger and harder to ignore, until we simply HAVE to acknowledge it.
My hope is that by imagining these playful, somewhat silly “bugs,” we can externalize our current challenges in a way that feels safe. It’s not too serious, and it’s kind of fun. It provides an opportunity to connect and learn more about what’s happening in your child’s inner world.
Once the bugs are out on paper, you can validate each other’s experiences. This may help you to feel more empathy and understanding towards each other, and things might generally feel a little bit easier.
Some things you might talk about:
- How does it feel to spend some time thinking about what’s been hard lately?
- What happens when something is bugging you? Do you notice that you or your kiddo have less patience, or it’s harder to concentrate, or do you find yourself picking a fight?
- Was there a disagreement or a difficult time that might have actually been about something else? Like maybe the meltdown about eating broccoli was actually more about how your kiddo misses their friends? (By the way, it’s totally okay for this to happen. It’s just helpful if we can notice it and make connections. Then if it starts to happen again, we can recognize what’s going on and take a different approach.)
- What happens when you acknowledge challenges together without trying to solve them?
If you would like to share your bug collection, I would LOVE to see it! Send me a photo at firstname.lastname@example.org, or let’s connect on Instagram (@resourcefulmearttherapy).
Happy bug collecting!
Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT