Having Meaningful Conversations with Children

Its safe to say that I was not keen on doing therapy with children. It did not attract me in the same way that other areas did. It could be that having my own children was enough of a challenge (by the way therapists are not perfect parents – if they tell you they are they are lying).

So coming to work at a family therapy centre meant that I had to start working with children. I love working with adults, I think I get a lot of satisfaction on an intellectual level in this work – and seeing changes in someone who has been trapped in their life for many years is amazing.

Children often don’t sit still, they get distracted and bored easily. Most of all, most have not got the words to describe what their life is like, on a deeper level. A lot of the work in therapy with children is teaching them how to think deeply and speak about themselves. This kind of work has the added benefit of building their identity, as they figure out who they are in themselves, their family and in the world at large.

Finding ways to start these conversations is not as easy as you think. Some children don’t actually want to talk to you anyway! So one has to get creative, play games, do crafts and draw etc.

If any of you work with children I have put together a booklet of helpful questions to get children engaged and thinking. It has helped me SO much to have this on hand for a nervous or restless client. Even if you start with a weird question (i.e. what is the worst thing you have ever smelled?) you would be amazed at the flow on conversations. This benefits anyone who works or cares for children.

You can buy my booklet ‘Quirky Questions and Conversation Starters’ on Amazon below – I purposely keep prices low to make them accessible to anyone. If you like it I would love you to review it on Amazon 🙂

‘Quirky Questions’ – UK/Aust/NZ Version 

‘Quirky Questions’ – U.S. Version

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Some Encouragement…

This is a little post to encourage any of you that feel that your past, your present or your feelings will never be redeemed. Maybe you have been incredibly hurt by the actions of other people, or have experienced the sort of traumas that are so hard to recover from. Maybe you yourself have not made great decisions when it comes to relationships, life, money etc.

I want all of you to know that you are worthy of a better life, no matter who you are. No matter how bad things are, they can be improved. Sometimes the smallest of changes can make a big difference to the way you feel or the decisions you make.

Keep people in your life who support your dreams, who want the best from you. If you have no-one like this then maybe it is time to make a fresh start and meet some new people.

Most of all, don’t ever feel like you are doomed to walk the same life forever. You can have something different if YOU want it. The key to this is that this does depend on you. Don’t wait for other people to save you, they will never understand exactly what you need. You are the only expert on your life.

Take care. This is the start of your journey to something different. You may not see what is ahead in the distance but take a step on to your new bridge anyway.

Unpacking Your Baggage 

Before making big changes in life you often have to deal with the baggage you already carry. You probably know what I’m talking about. We all have a history of some sort, with hurt, disappointment and even trauma.

Does your past haunt you, affect your self-esteem and life choices, or cause you ongoing anxiety? Well, there is one big thing you can do to help, to get the hard stuff out of your head… and it means telling your story in detail.

There are a couple of ways of doing this.

  1. Write it out. You can start from the beginning work your way up to the present, or pick particular events that you need to deal with. No-one else has to read it, you can destroy it afterwards if you prefer. Or you may be inspired to write a book – who knows? If you tell your story from the beginning it can be amazing what comes out, things you may not have thought about for years.
  2. Tell someone trustworthy. There may be an anonymous support line you could call if there is no-one good in your circle of relationships. Or a therapist if you have access to one.  If you feel safe, talk about your experiences with someone who was there too.
  3. Record yourself telling the story (privately). Again, you don’t have to keep it afterwards.

The reason why this is helpful is that often we have never really spoken the truth of our experience out loud. Just doing this can be a relief. Sometimes hearing ourselves tell our own story can even change our perspective on the circumstances, or make us realize new things about ourselves or others. Maybe you will discover strengths you did not know you had.

Don’t forget, it’s ok to say – ‘that really hurt’. There is no point pretending it didn’t. We often fall into the trap of minimizing our experiences to protect the feelings of others or to not look ‘weak’.

Some of us carry deeper wounds than others, and may suffer from post-traumatic stress for years afterwards. I will address this topic soon.

**Safety Point** – There may be things that you know you are not ready to open up about. That is ok. There may be a point in the future where you are safe to go there. In the meantime, try addressing other things that you are ready to talk about.


The First Steps…

Many people are not really sure how to start changing things in their life, and the reality is we often have a few things to do first. In fact, most of us have things we haven’t properly dealt with from our past, or may be holding on to circumstances (or people) that we know are not good for us.

Given that it is not always possible to get to a therapist, or someone similar, we need other options to start us off.

  1. Prepare to be your own rescuer. Others may help, but we usually have to do the hard stuff ourselves.
  2. If you have medical stuff that you have not dealt with – go and sort it out. Same goes for serious mental health concerns and addictions. If you need extra help please ask. It show strength to admit what is really going for us – not weakness.
  3. Identify the people who are going to help you. It might be an old friend, an aunt you haven’t seen in a while, your partner or even an online community – anyone. Crucially though, they need to be stable and secure in their lives in order to be able to support you well.
  4. Be realistic. It is not possible to change everything at once. Identify the most important things that need to change now. Start with safety. Are you safe at the moment? mentally and physically? Don’t worry about the smaller stuff right now. The small things often get better when the big things have been dealt with.
  5. Start thinking about the things that make you feel good – the healthy things. Do you like music, sports, baking? These things are going to help you move forward because are good for you. More on this later.


Don’t forget – every situation can be tweaked. It may take something quite small to make you happier, or it might be a huge change. Either way, you can make it happen. 

So what’s this all about?

Most of us have heard the phrase “just build a bridge and get over it” when we have complained to someone about things that are not going well in our life. To be honest, that is a pretty unsympathetic way of responding – but not without a measure of truth.

Without sounding cliched, life is a series of inter-twining journeys – our childhood, teenage years, parenting, work experiences, major relationships etc. At times things get complicated, difficult and even hopeless….. to the point where we can not see a way out.

Some people carry long term trauma which never really leaves. Others have survived difficult circumstances or live with mental health issues of varying degrees. We all have times where we can imagine a better, happier future but just cannot see how to get there.

A bridge is a way of getting from one place to another, one circumstance to another. As a therapist I use strength building conversations to help someone build their bridge to a happier life and take a step on to it. Now this may take a while. Sometimes our trauma has been so great that it never goes away entirely – instead we find a way to manage and build a bridge around it.

To help someone get to a better place in life is an amazing thing. I am not perfect, I have my own challenges just like anyone else. This blog is designed for me and you, and everyone. To support, encourage and be honest about moving forward in life. There is often no ‘quick fix’ solution, but things can always change.

Feel free to comment and get involved. We often need a community around us to really make things better.

Oh, and if you see a few links around the place, they are solely there to help support the costs of this blog, don’t feel pressured to click them 🙂



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