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Valencia Family Resource Library Guide: Healing Activities

Healing Activities

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HEALING ACTIVITIES

Below please find activities to help your child cope with Divorce and Separation. These activities are from The Healing Library's kit on Divorce and Separation with some adaptations to complete them digitally if you do not have the supplies listed. 

eBook Link: Here and There

Activity: Here and There Journal

Supplies needed to make your own journal:

  • Five 8.5 x 11" sheets of paper
  • One piece of card stock
  • Stapler and staples

If you do not have these supplies available, you can download a journal app on your smartphone, tablet, or iPad. 

You can also purchase any kind of notebook or journal online or at any local store.

Adjusting to new living arrangements after a separation/divorce takes time. Some children adjust more quickly than others, and it's important to honor each child’s pace and experience. In the picture book Here and There (Barefoot Books), Ivan is in this adjustment period, learning to be himself in the "Here" and "There" of his parents' apartments. As children acclimate to the “new normal,” it can be helpful for children to explore the similarities and differences of their own “Here” and “There.” Journaling is one way to explore this.

A Here and There Journal with suggested writing prompts can encourage children to think about and explore their own “Here” and “There” experience. Prompts are questions that your child can answer, as well as incomplete sentences the child can finish. These prompts encourage thoughts and reflection about what their new living arrangements entail— i.e., how their homes are similar and how they are different, what they look forward to at each place and what they don’t look forward to, and what the house rules are at one place compared to the other, etc.

Talk with your child and co-parent about the journal traveling between "Here" and "There."

Making a Simple Journal

If you want to make a journal with your child:

• Cut five 8.5 x 11" sheets of paper in half to create the ten pages that will go inside your journal.

  • Which way should you cut? Hold the paper vertically, and cut along the horizontal center line.

• Fold the piece of card stock in half.

  • Which way should you fold? Hold the paper vertically, and fold along the center horizontal line

• If you would like, make a Here and There Journal Label and glue it to the front.

• Staple your ten pages inside the cover.

• A journal can be so much more than just writing! Feel free to embellish it, add borders, or follow other creative ideas your child may have.

Prompt Ideas

The child can choose which prompts to include in their journals. See Prompts box below for ideas.

Journaling

Journaling should not be something you "assign" to your child. Your child should feel comfortable to add to that journal with you beside them or in their own private time. Consider making yourself a journal as well. You two can set aside some quiet time to write together. You might even share certain things you have written or drawn. Encourage your child to go beyond the writing prompts and use the journal to “think” on the page.

Shared Journals are a great tool to communicate with a parent whom the child does not see frequently. See the "When/If One Parent is Moving Far Away" in the Parent Guide.

Drawing

Keep in mind that drawing can be a helpful way for children to express themselves when they might be uncomfortable or may be too young to use only words to express themselves.

Privacy

Talk to your child ahead of time about their journal and privacy. Do they want their Here and There Journal to be private, or will they want to share it with a parent, counselor, or other person? If they ask for their journal to be private, respect their privacy. The Here and There Journal is meant to be a neutral place for children to explore their lives after a separation/divorce. If the journal travels between "Here" and "There," make sure that your co-parent is also aware of the privacy decision. 

The Healing Library: Separation & Divorce: Parent Guide Inspired by the book HERE AND THERE by Tamara Ellis Smith (Barefoot Books). Image © Evelyn Daviddi

Journal Prompts

Activity: Making Music Here & There

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In the picture book Here and There (Barefoot Books), Ivan is a very musical child. Despite feeling sad when he is at his father’s new house, he can’t resist one of the songs his dad plays on the guitar. Much like Ivan’s backpack filled with items he can take between his parent’s two homes, a song is something you can also have with you at all times. We can hum a familiar tune to comfort ourselves, or we can sing a song together to share in our happiness (or sadness).

The ukulele is a uniquely accessible instrument. It can be strummed aimlessly to create a happy tune with almost no need to learn chords. You could start by singing the bird sound song that Ivan invented. Ivan's lyrics are included on the next page. Use that song to inspire you to make up a song together about something your child loves as much as Ivan loves birds. Don’t worry too much about the technical aspects of the song, just have fun and make it your own! 

If you don't have a ukulele, you can make one! Click here for a link to create your own ukulele with items you can find around your house!

You can also download a ukulele app on your smartphone, tablet, or iPad. 

If you or your child want to get a little more serious about tuning the instrument and learning some chords, here are some starting points.

Tuning

Playing a ukulele easy--and so is tuning one! Tuners are the little knobs on the top of the ukulele. There are two on the left side and two on the right side. Starting with the tuner that is attached to the string on the left, you'll tune the ukulele to the following notes: G, then C, then E, then A. This is the standard tuning for a ukulele.

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Look for a simple ukulele book at the library to help with tuning or use the online tuner and guide at: https://ukuguides.com/maintenance/how-to-properly-tune-your-ukulele/

Chords

Julia Frederick, the Youth Services Librarian at Deerfield Public Library, Deerfield, IL, plays the ukulele at work! She recommends playing around on the ukulele to get a feel for all the fun this happy little instrument holds. In addition to strumming the ukulele once it’s in tune, here are a few easy chords she suggests you try out as well:

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 Add Percussion

Feeling extra creative? In addition to playing your ukulele, you can also knock gently on it to create some percussion to go with your song. If one of you is playing the ukulele, the other can play percussion by clapping, knocking on a surface, or even shaking dried beans or nuts in a jar.  

 

The Healing Library: Separation & Divorce: Parent Guide Inspired by the book HERE AND THERE by Tamara Ellis Smith (Barefoot Books). Image © Evelyn Daviddi

Activity: Bird Song Here and There

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The Healing Library: Separation & Divorce: Parent Guide Inspired by the book HERE AND THERE by Tamara Ellis Smith (Barefoot Books). Image © Evelyn Daviddi

Activity: Here and There Book Discussion

 

Reading Here and There (Barefoot Books) with your child will be helpful whether your family is experiencing a separation or a divorce, but will be most helpful after that decision has been announced. The book could be beneficial in explaining future living arrangements or negotiating the adjustment of the your child's current homes both "Here" and "There." You and your child may want to read the book one or two times together before using it as a topic of discussion. What’s important is talking together, not forcing a conversation or expecting that reading the book will explain everything your child needs.

You are what your child needs. The book and this guide are simply a starting point for crucial conversations.

Below are some helpful notes you can use or paraphrase when reading the book together. If the note is written in italics it is for you to read and potentially use to observe a behavior in your child. If the note is written in "quotations," it is a statement or question you could address to your child. Wherever there is a “________,” you may insert the name of your coparent. There’s no need to use all the notes, just use what feels natural or most beneficial for your family. 

 

Pages 1 & 2

"Like the birds he loved..."

Ivan is very curious about birds. While birds may not be your child's fascination, observing birds together or "birding" is one activity that could help your child discover connections between their "Here" and "There." Refer to the Birding Here and There activity guide for ideas on how to connect with your child through observing and learning more about birds.

“Ivan knows a lot about the way different birds sing! Would you like to listen to some of these songs together?”

Ivan is shown in the home he grew up in on these pages. He’s feeling relaxed and comfortable and is engaging in a favorite past time. Does your child have a favorite pastime they love to do where they grew up?

“What’s something you love to do at our home? Can you also do that at ________’s home?”

Your child may not be able to imagine doing this activity at your co-parent’s home. Being positive and brainstorming ways to make the activity possible will help them during this early adjustment phase.

Pages 3 & 4

"Ivan wanted to stay here..."

Ivan is about to go to his dad’s new home. Observe how Ivan’s body language and facial expression both change. Consider pointing this out to your child and talking to your child about their own feelings regarding your co-parent’s home.

“Ivan looks different on this page. How do you think he’s feeling?”

Your child's answer may be brief, or they may want to talk about this in more detail. Some children will even note how they feel going to the other parent's home. This can be challenging for some parents to hear, whether the child has positive or negative things to say about it. If you’re able, listen to your child's response and carry on with the book and discussion guide. You can return to any discussion points later as needed.

Pages 5 - 8

"When he got there..." "While he was There, Ivan didn't drum..."

The lack of swooping, singing birds on these pages is symbolic of Ivan's lack of movement, singing, and animated conversation. Your child’s own body language can help you understand what they need. If they appear still but are able to talk, you can continue your conversation. If they appear “checked out,” however, it’s probably a good time to take a break and care for them. 

"Ivan is happy to see his Dad, but he is also frowning, still, and quiet. Do you ever feel a little sad or uncomfortable when you first arrive at _______ or this place?"

"Moving between our two homes is very stressful, I know. Let's think of some things we can do to make it feel a little more comfortable."

Click here to look at the “Drop-offs and Pick-ups” section for ideas on making the transition from one house to the other easier.

Pages 9 & 10

"Ivan roosted all by himself..."

These pages describe Ivan trying to find a place in his father’s new home that feels comfortable. Does your child have a space in their new home that feels like their own yet? Can you coordinate with your co-parent to create such a space together in advance of their first visit?

“What is your favorite place to hang out at ________’s home? What makes it the best part of their home? Is there anything in our home you think would help make your new home more comfortable?”

When Ivan goes outside, his body language shows he feels more comfortable. Even though he doesn’t engage with the birds he loves, Ivan seems more relaxed now that they’re around. This page can be a good place to start a conversation about your child beginning to feel more comfortable in their new home.

"Look at Ivan's face. Is his mood changing? I wonder why? Could it be seeing the birds that he loves?"

Your child's answer may be brief, or they may want to talk about this in more detail. Some children will even note how they feel going to the other parent's home. This can be challenging for some parents to hear, whether the child has positive or negative things to say about it. If you’re able, listen to your child's response and carry on with the book and discussion guide. You can return to any discussion points later as needed.

A reminder: If your child cries when talking about any of this, you can reassure them by saying something like, “It’s okay to cry, especially when you’re sad. You may feel sad for a little while or a long time. Both are okay, and if you need hugs I’m here for you.”

For more ways to talk to children about your separation or divorce, click here.

Page 11 & 12

"Dad was sitting on the porch..."

If you’re the parent who is in a new home, consider things you did at your old home that you can integrate into life in the new home. Having a hard time figuring out what to do? Ask your child!

“I like how the dad is playing with Ivan at their new home the way they did at their old home! What’s something we can do together that we used to do at our old home?”

In addition to your own creative ideas, you might also consider one of the activities found in this LibGuide.

Pages 13 & 14

"Ivan couldn't be still..."

Ivan’s happiness on these pages has to do with how he feels when he’s bonding with his parents through play. As a parent, you can provide this kind of comfort to your child by engaging in activities with them and letting them know how loved they are despite your separation or divorce from your co-parent. Reassuring your child that these things will always happen no matter where you live may provide them with a sense of comfort.

“There are things you and I will do together no matter where we live that will always make me feel happy. What are things we do together that make you happy?”

Pages 15 -16

"I like that..."

The dad describes starting the song at one home and finishing at the other. Your child can also bring projects from one home to the other to work on. A journal is something your child can work on in both places. Instructions are found on the left side of this page.

"Ivan discovers that his Dad is writing songs. Is there something surprising you discovered about me or _____ when we separated?”

This would be a great time to pull out the ukulele and play! It doesn’t matter if you know a song or just want to strum and be silly!

“Look! Ivan has bird seed in his pockets! That’s unique! Do you have anything unique in your pockets that we could write a song about?”

Pages 17 -18

"Ivan couldn't be quiet..."

On this page, you can see the backpack and books that Ivan has brought from "Here" to "There." Reading and writing are great tools to bridge the divide between two homes. 

“Do you see the books Ivan brought with him from his mom’s home to his dad’s home? We can make a book you bring to each of our homes if you like!”

"What are you reading right now? Do you like it? Should I read it too? Maybe I can read it while you are at ______'s home and we can talk about it when you come back.”

If you look closely, you will see things from their old home that dad has moved to his new home. For example, there is a plant pot on the table that matches plant pots at mom’s house. Talking about the moving process as well as what’s it’s like to pack or unpack can help normalize the transition.

“What do you think Ivan's dad unpacked first? What do people usually unpack first when they move?"

"Is it exciting or hard to see things from one house appear in another?"

Pages 19 -20

"Caw caw..."

The last page of this book lists the various bird calls Ivan is singing and the birds that make them. In the Healing Activity: Bird Song box below, you can find web resources where you can listen to these bird songs or find the songs of birds that live where you do!

“Ivan knows so much about bird calls! Would you like to listen to what some of these bird calls sound like in nature? Would you like to find out what bird calls there are where we live?”  

Pages 21 & 22

"Ivan sang and swung..."

Saying goodbye can feel especially emotional during the early stages of your separation or divorce. Click here for some tips for easing the transition between homes for your child that will assist you in providing them with the care they need in the section labeled Drop-offs and Pick-ups. Some suggestions include asking your child if they prefer to chat about their experience when leaving one home or instead prefer to share some quiet time. Would a snack or drink be a good idea for your child? Perhaps packing would be easier if it was something your child did with a parent instead of alone. These pages can be used to discuss a plan with your child.

"Do you think this goodbye is hard for Ivan? Do you think it is hard for his Dad? I know it is hard for me when you leave, but I am also happy that you get time with ______. It is not easy, but we both love you so much."

“Sometimes you might feel sad like Ivan when we say goodbye to one another, but that’s normal. If you want, we can figure out ways to make our goodbyes easier together.” (Offer suggestions from the Drop-offs and Pick-ups section here)

If your homes are far apart now, see When/If One Parent is Moving Far Away section here for suggestions for staying connected . Those suggestions include regularly scheduled communication, shared journals, snail mail, and other ideas. Sometimes even if your homes aren’t far apart these strategies can be beneficial. These pages can also be used to discuss communication strategies.

“Would you like to think of ways we can spend time together even if we’re apart? I think it might help us miss one another less.”

Pages 23 - 26

"Ivan was glad to see Mama..." "Ivan perched..."

Back at mom’s home, Ivan appears to feel sad or out of place again. This response is completely normal. The transition from one parent’s home to the other can be tiring physically and emotionally. However, including your child in creating a "transition routine" can be helpful for all involved. Ask your child what you can do to help the transition when he or she returns to your home. Some children may want quiet time in their room to unpack and settle in. Other kids may desire an activity with the parent or time to go out and play. This is a great opportunity to include your child in a plan for something predictable and nurturing in transitioning back to your place with as much ease as possible.

“Ivan seems sad again. What is he missing? Do you miss ________ when you are here?"

"I know there are things about spending time with ________ that are very special for both of you. It’s okay to miss ________ and the things you do together. I want our home to be filled with happiness and special things for you too. What are some special things we can do together?”

On page 23 we see that the cups at Ivan’s mom’s home are the same as the cups at Ivan’s dad’s home. If you have a collection of items (such as cups) that your child is accustomed to, consider having part of the collection at each home. Small details like this can make a child feel more at home no matter where they’re staying.

Pages 27 - 30

"Then he heard a falcon..." "Mama heard it too..."

Ivan’s mother is happy when Ivan remembers the song he created at his dad’s home. Despite what’s going on between her and Ivan’s dad, she encourages Ivan and dances along in order to let him feel joy. If you ever feeling challenged supporting your child's relationship with the co-parent, remember there are resources to help you through: talk to loved ones; utilize the resources at your community library (there are multiple books on co-parenting to check out); use the internet to collect helpful advice from experts on co-parenting; and/or join a local support group.

"What makes Ivan happy again? How does Ivan's happiness make his Mama feel?"

"You never need to hide that you have had a good time at ________'s house. You never have to hide your sadness either. If you want to keep your time there private, that is okay, but you will not make me jealous or sad by sharing things with me."

Your family might consider writing a song together between both of your homes or just playing with the ukulele in each place, letting your child lead the activity of music making.

Further Reading

If your child connects with this book, it is available in paperback and might be useful to have for your child's shelf both "Here" and “There."

For other age-appropriate books on this topic, contact your librarian.

The Healing Library: Separation & Divorce: Parent Guide Inspired by the book HERE AND THERE by Tamara Ellis Smith (Barefoot Books). Image © Evelyn Daviddi

Activity: Birding Here and There

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Print Pocket for Bird Seed

In the picture book Here and There (Barefoot Books), Ivan is a birder (someone who is curious about birds). He knows a lot about their songs and their appearance, and he carries a pocketful of bird seed to feed them. When Ivan is first moving between his mother and his father's two apartments, he feels sad and disoriented. It is the appearance of the birds that connects Ivan to the two places. That is the challenge of any child moving between two places -- to feel at home in each.

While birds may not be your child's fascination, observing birds together or ”birding" is one activity that could help your child discover connections between their "Here" and "There."

Pocketful of Bird Seed

Look further in this activity guide for a paper craft that allows you and your child to keep a pocketful of bird seed like Ivan. If possible, find some bird seed to fill your packets and pockets.

Here and There Bird Song

To help identify bird song, turn to the back of the book or the box below that includes Ivan's unique song composed of bird song.

Birds Near You

The birds you will see in your neighborhood or in more wild places will differ depending on where you live and what time of year it is. Ask your librarian for books and local resources.

Here are some great resources:

  • The Audubon Guide to North American Birds website lets you search for birds by name, region, or taxonomy (group). https://www.audubon.org/bird-guide
  • There’s a free app called Merlin created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to assist you with bird identification. You can answer simple questions to see a list of potential birds in your area or submit pictures of the bird you saw to identify birds in your area. http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/
  • Project FeederWatch has free posters of the most common birds found at bird feeders in winter in North America. You may print them out and have them for reference. They also have a free poster of the most common hummingbirds in North America. https://feederwatch.org/learn/identifying-birds/#download-feederwatch-posters

Birdsong

Often you will hear a bird before you see it. Learning birds by the songs they sing can be very satisfying and make you more attuned to your environment. In addition to the guide in the back of Here and There (Barefoot Books), here are some online resources:

  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a search engine where you can enter the type of bird you’re looking for and listen to its song. In addition, you can also check out their section about how to listen to birdsongs to hear differences in rhythm, tone, pitch, and repetition.
  • Feeding Birds: You may find that feeding and attracting birds to your apartment or house is very appealing. While you may see fancy bird feeders and so many varieties of seed in stores, feeding birds does not need to be complicated or expensive.
    • Search online for kids’ crafts to make bird feeders with everything from toilet paper rolls to lumber.
    • For more information on different birdseeds and what types of birds they attract, check out this guide from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

Urban Birding

When most people think of birding, they picture walking in the woods with a pair of binoculars in one hand and a guide book in the other. However, as our cities have grown and changed to house us humans, many birds have adapted to also create their homes there. "Urban birding" is bird watching in cities and other urban locations!

Celebrate Urban Birds is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is designed to help birders in urban locations identify birds, learn about conservation, and also contribute their sightings to help Cornell’s research.

Learn More

Want to read more? Borrow these or other titles from your local library!

• Kaufman, Kenn. Birds of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2000

• Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. 2000

• Stokes, Don and Lillian. Beginner’s Guide to Birds. Little, Brown, and Company. 1996 

Thank You

Content adapted from The Healing Library: Separation & Divorce: Parent Guide Inspired by the book Here and There by Tamara Ellis Smith (Barefoot Books). Image © Evelyn Daviddi

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