Tips to Help Sad/Upset System Kids

 Create a safe inner space for them

When we first found Lucy she was in a dark shadowy place in our brain, and she wasn’t very aware of James, Kate, or Forest. She felt scared a lot of the time, and when she wasn’t scared she was bored because she had nothing to do. The adults in the system tried to deal with that by getting her comfort objects on the outside- like stuffed animals or blankets. In therapy Alex (my therapist) suggested I try to build her a better place to live on the inside instead of trying to give her a better life on the outside, when she didn’t front too often.

We had never intentionally tried to change my headspace before, and wasn’t sure if it would work. We decided to ask Lucy what her ideal home would be and to do a drawing of it for her, to help her visualize herself there. Lucy asked for a treehouse, a yard with a swing set, and a cat, and we added a dollhouse, sand box, and princess bed for her to enjoy. We made a rule that in this world it wouldn’t ever be night time, and that it was in a place no one else (except J+K+F) could enter. And when we painted it we just focused on making it seem like a happy, entertaining place for a kid to be.

Give them a pet (even if it’s just in the headspace)

 Like I said in my point above, Lucy asked for a cat. This stemmed from her (frequently) wishing for an outside world cat, but we can’t have a pet right now, so we compromised. Animals are good attachments for little ones to have because it can be hard to find friends. Also good is just letting them spend time with animals in any capacity- friend/family’s pets, shelters, etc.

Buy them comfort objects and toys

Even though I mentioned in my first point that buying things didn’t always help Lucy, it did make her feel loved and help her have a good time on the outside, so depending on your situation you might want to do both.

Anyway, Lucy really likes stuffed animals so we have bought her a few, and holding onto them really helps her cope in times when she is sad or stressed. But sometimes, especially if you have multiple kids + they all want their own toys, it can get kind of pricy so I make my own! We use old clothes and buttons and sew her homemade stuffed animals. So far she has 3 ones we made her: a baby dinosaur, a Cyclops/troll-like creature (named Pink Thing), and a dog named smokey.

Other things you could get them include:

-their own pajamas (Lucy has a big soft blue T shirt she uses as a nightgown that is just hers)

-A fluffy blanket for them to hold

-Games or books suited to their age

-Coloring books (really cheap at dollar stores) or just colored pencils and paper for drawing

-Or just listen to kids music they like for free

Additional sub point: Make sure you actually give them time to play with the stuff you buy them  I remember one time, while I was in therapy, Alex, asked me what sorts of things I had done to help Lucy feel better. I told her that I had bought her a stuffed bear that she calls Honeybear. Alex asked me where I kept the bear, and I replied that she usually sat right by me on the bed. In my brain I was thinking that I had done a lot for Lucy, but then Alex asked me if I actually gave her time with it- If I slept with the bear, or played with it on a regular basis. And I realized that I had actually only let Lucy out a handful of times to actually hold the bear and play with her, and that just buying it was not the important part. So it seems kind of obvious- but if you need it spelled out for you like I did- It’s the play time with the objects that will help your little one.

Let them participate in therapy

I don’t think this would be helpful to everyone, but Lucy really adores our therapist and enjoys going to therapy. When she goes to see Alex an adult is always there at the beginning and the end to make sure it’s safe, and then they just play together and bond. We don’t do this very often because we need out therapy time for other things usually, but Alex has read stories to Lucy and they color together. Just having this stable relationship helps Lucy. And it’s my thinking that if Lucy ever needs/ wants to talk about something she will already have a safe person she trusts to go to.

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