We were on sick day number 4 over here today, and by this afternoon were hit hard with the boredom and crankiness that always seems to accompany that point in the recuperation when the sick kid has enough energy to be antsy, but still feels lousy enough to be irritable. Once again, the plaster casting material came to our rescue, when I was certain there would be no redeeming this gloomy afternoon.
I was immediately reminded of a phrase from a workshop I recently attended with Kirk Martin of Celebrate Calm: “Motion changes emotion.”
In other words, when your child is melting down, get him to a change of scenery, get him involved in doing something, don’t just stand there trying to talk him out of it.
Thankfully, in our case, the plaster material and my son’s earlier projects were still set up on the table on our enclosed porch (a nice sunny spot to work) for him to notice, which eliminated the need for me to suggest he work with the materials (I’m sure he would have said “NO!” to anything I suggested at that point). He has gone out there twice in the last few days to expand on his previous experiences with hand casting, and has had some fun getting more inventive and expressive!
Based on these recent positive experiences working with this medium, he was able to make the choice on his own to go for it this afternoon.
Within seconds, he shifted from, “I hate you! I hate everything!” to “Mom, stay here and do this with me.” And his energy immediately shifted from tense and agitated to calm and engaging. In my previous posts (like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one) I have spoken about the therapeutic impact of the sense of touch that is elicited through various art media. For my son and me, the process of casting each other’s hands in clay and in plaster, has become a valuable tool. My nine year old has discovered that he can use this process to bring about a sense of calm for himself, and it is also something that he can control and use to create a concrete and predictable outcome, which gives him a feeling of mastery and success. It is also a wonderful way for the two of us to connect.
And today, he took the process a step further with a new idea he came up with for decorating the extra thick cast that we had built around his hand. He used pipettes to squirt liquid watercolors on the cast, creating a colorful splattered effect. What a turnaround from gloom and doom to bright and fun and whimsical.
You don’t have to have complicated art materials at your disposal to apply these principals in your own home. Think about what hooks your child. It could be anything from building with legos, to playing with playdough, to tossing bean bags, to whipping up a recipe in the kitchen…anything that gets them moving and doing and using their senses while connecting with you in a relaxed and fun way. Over time these experiences help them learn that they can make choices to help calm themselves and learn self-control.