A Silver Lining of this summer is that I am back to my beloved clinical work. Doing clinical work makes my heart and soul so very, very happy.
So, what does this look like, exactly? Well, I am co-facilitating a support group for adolescents who either have a parent or a sibling with cancer. I am also working with individual children of parents with cancer helping them to understand and cope with the f-bomb that has hit their family (don’t worry, no f-bombs around the kids!).
As I’ve always said, we are not born equipped to handle the cancer f-bomb. However, the Silver Lining is that there are tools to help at every single solitary stage of the process.
One tool that I love to use with children is the Mandala. Ever heard of it? Ohhhh, I love it. The word “Mandala” is Sanskrit for “whole world” or “healing circle.”
Mandalas go way, way back. They were originally used in Eastern religions as symbols to help people meditate, and for protection and healing rituals. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self,” and believed that mandala paintings helped him identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.
As we all know, the stress, physical pain, and uncertainty of having f-bomb cancer in the family can leave children feeling a wide range of emotions including fear, shock, anger, resentment, confusion, denial, guilt, and sadness. They may not have the words to express these feelings or may not want to openly share them with others. But through mandala coloring, children can find a powerful, yet safe, outlet for their emotions.
Mandala coloring is a wonderful opportunity for creative play and a form of art therapy that uses crayons, colored pencils, and other artistic writing tools. Mandala’s are very healing because they allow a child to connect with his or her heart-center and release pent-up emotions in a non-threatening way. It also allows a children to tell their story—their fears, their determination, their courage—through the language of symbols, color, and their own artistic expression.
While a Mandala can be exquisitely intricate and detailed, it can also be very, very simple (which is, of course, how I prefer to use them). I begin by simply asking a child to draw a circle. Then within that circle, I ask them to draw their feelings using different colors. The beautiful Silver Lining of a Mandala is that it becomes whatever a child wants it to become.
Mandala coloring allows a child to enter a place of stillness so they can create. This stillness allows them to relax their bodies and quiet their minds which explains why mandala coloring is such an effective tool for relieving tension and stress. But, this same process also engages a child’s mind in a constructive way that lifts their spirits and lets them artistically express what’s in their hearts from a place of centeredness.
Both professionally and also personally with Sweetly Six, I’ve witnessed how transformative and Silver Lined Mandalas are.
Have you ever used them? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!