The last two years have been incredibly difficult. Children, as well as adults, have struggled to find spiritual wellbeing in the midst of health concerns, school closures, racial strife, school shootings, grief, and uncertainty. Google’s Year in Search 2021 identifies “how do I heal?” as one of the top searches people conducted this year. The video’s final tagline: “To everyone fighting to come back stronger, search on.”
As we move into a new year, think about how you can create a sacred space where children can find healing in your home or gathering space. Here are some components you might include:
Finger labyrinths. These handheld, tabletop or paper versions of a meditative walking path can provide a way to help children reflect on their spiritual journey. Invite children to slowly trace the path with their finger as they think about significant experiences over the last week, then the last month, and then the last year, going further back in time as they get closer to the center of the labyrinth. Encourage them to pause in the middle briefly to rest. Then invite them to reflect on where they want to go in the next week, month, and year as they follow the labyrinth path out.
Clay or play dough. Working with clay provides a means to manage strong emotions. Pounding a big ball of dough into a flat pancake can safely express anger. Repeatedly squeezing a piece of clay can relax the body and calm the mind. Shaping the dough into figures that represent persons who have died and things they loved can help children grieve. Provide instructions [see Related Resources] for all of these possibilities.
Musical instruments. Music has long been a way to communicate thoughts and feelings. Provide children with a recorder or a small keyboard. Encourage them to produce sounds and rhythms that reflect how they are feeling. They might play rapid discordant notes to represent stress, syncopated high notes to represent joy, or slow low notes to signal sadness. Younger children might use shaker eggs filled with different items [see Related Resources] to indicate how they are doing.
Art materials. Drawing is a staple activity therapists use to help children express themselves. Provide crayons, markers, chalk sticks, or colored pencils, and blank sheets of paper so children can create pictures and stories. (Or set up an e-tablet with a drawing program.) Provide prompts such as “This year was hard because…”, “I feel excited about…”, “I am stressed when…”. You could also ask children to work on a graphic novel that depicts their spiritual journey over the last year.
Candles or light strings. Many children are fascinated by flickering lights. An LED candle or set of fairy lights helps any space feel magical. Add ritual-based lights in season: a Kwanzaa kinara, Diwali diya, Hanukkah menorah, or Advent wreath. Invite children to meditate or pray as the light falls around them.