The Power of Pictures

For children struggling with worry or anxiety, talking therapy can sometimes be hard. Depending on their age and personality, it can be hard to open up to a new adult like a Psychologist or School Counsellor, but more than that, it can be hard to put into words just how they are feeling. Often, they simply don’t know, let alone how to articulate it!

A great technique I learnt from a brilliant Psychologist I was lucky enough to work with uses picture strips to get around these issues and open up conversation between adult and child. It’s something that all adults can do with little ones they love who might be experiencing a difficult time and is a great way to introduce new ways of dealing with things.

Essentially, the difficulties the child is facing and & strategies suggested to address them are broken down into simple stories with hand-drawn graphics. It’s best to keep it brief, between 2 and 8 boxes, depending on your child’s age or stage of development. Where appropriate, these stories can also be ‘written’ in collaboration with the child (following a pre-planned structure from the adult). The beauty is that it’s a simple, yet powerful technique to connect with children in a fun way that dissolves any pressure on them. It can be tailored to fit around your child’s specific concerns and peppered with personal details that will mean it resonates with your little one.

Here’s an example we love that was designed for a child experiencing difficulties with bedtime.

Picture courtesy of Possibilities Psychological Services (click here)

A few tips to consider when developing your own picture strip stories…

· Consider using your child as a ‘character’ – kids LOVE hearing stories about themselves.

· If you’re teaching empathy, use your child as well as a younger child – humans are naturally empathetic to those younger than them.

· If you’re teaching positive behavioural strategies/ choices, the opposite applies! Use an older child in the story to ‘model’ or demonstrate behaviours you’d like to see in your little one. It’s natural to ‘look up’ to the big kids.

· Be specific; while the correct things to say or do may seen obvious to us as adults, often it is brand-new information for children. Make sure your strategies are clear and explicit in their detail. For example, if your story is designed to teach your little perfectionist that it’s ok to ask for help, have their character drawn with a speech bubble that says “Please could you help me out here? I need a little help with this”.

· Like all good stories, be sure to wrap things up in a satisfying and positive way. It’s the conclusion, & how it made them feel, that they’ll be left with.