Self-esteem and confidence are major traits in individuals that affect their success. While these are a lifelong process, the foundation of it needs to be established in early childhood. Building self-esteem will allow the child to deal with difficult situations that they will encounter during their lifetime. Since parents have the greatest influence on a child’s belief, it is important for them to let their child know where they belong, how well they are doing and contribute towards developing confidence and self-esteem.
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Have you ever struggled to figure something out—a big decision that you have to make, what to do next in a relationship, etc.—but no matter how hard you thought about it, you could not come up with an answer? Then perhaps you awakened one morning after a peaceful night of sleep, and you knew exactly what to do? If you have had this type of experience, you are not alone. Being able to think logically through a problem is an important skill, but it will not lead to all answers. Quite often the answers lie within us which means the goal is not to agonize and analyze through every detail of a challenge that presents itself, but to find a way to access the answers that are already there.Where exactly are these answers if they are “within” a person? They are held in the subconscious. The subconscious is like a locked treasure chest. The memories, thoughts, and feelings in this treasure chest are different from the ones held in the memory banks of the conscious mind. They are different because the conscious mind decided that they needed to be tucked away deep inside, perhaps never to be considered or acknowledged again. Perhaps these thoughts were too intense, too upsetting, or they made the person feel uncomfortable for some other reason, so the conscious mind stored these memories, thoughts, and feelings in that locked treasure chest called the subconscious. The subconscious is good at keeping things hidden from the conscious mind, and the conscious mind is happy to not be bothered with disturbing emotions.
Even though locking uncomfortable thoughts away seems to work well on the surface, items that have been locked away in the subconscious can unfortunately still cause trouble. And the tricky part is that the conscious mind is not fully aware of what lurks in the subconscious. Some feelings and memories are so toxic, it is as if they emit poisonous fumes that escape the subconscious no matter how well a person believes it is sealed. An example is someone who experiences a horrific trauma and then tries to move on as if it never happened. The subconscious mind stores the memories of the trauma, but then those memories escape sometimes in the form of flashbacks or other symptoms.
We use the subconscious to help protect us from the painful things in life; therefore, we need to access the subconscious in order to fully achieve healing. It is the subconscious mind that reveals itself in the sand tray world. Therefore, Sand Tray Therapy is an excellent means by which to access the subconscious and purge whatever toxins may be stored there. Sand Tray Therapy bypasses the defenses, walls and blocks that are present at the conscious level and goes straight down to where the real work can be done.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung
The world in the sand tray comes from within, but it feels separate; therefore, it feels safe. It is easier for a person of any age to talk about a scene in a sand tray (a rabbit that is hiding behind a bush possibly frightened of the nearby tiger) than it is to speak directly about his or her own life. At a subconscious level, connections are made between the sand tray world themes and the creator’s own life. These do not have to be pointed out, discussed or highlighted for healing to take place; they are processed on a subconscious level.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology who developed concepts that still influence sand tray therapy today, once said, “Often the hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect has wrestled in vain.”
It is not uncommon for those who have completed their first sand tray to remark that they felt a surprising emotional release after the experience. Of course, it typically requires repeated sand tray therapy sessions to fully express an experience and/or work through deeper issues.
When they are creating a world in the sand, even young children seem to intuitively know that they are engaging in something meaningful, something powerful, something that matters.
What is Sandtray Therapy?
Sand Tray Therapy is a powerful projective psychotherapy that allows for the nonverbal expression of emotions which facilitates deep psychological healing. Within the safe and protected space provided by the therapist, a client of any age chooses miniatures and creates a “world” in the sand. Children who are not yet developmentally able to verbally discuss abstract concepts create metaphor-rich worlds in the sand that reflect their own inner worlds. Teenagers who may be putting up walls against everyone in their lives and who may be resistant to therapy as well, have nothing to hide when they are working in the sand tray. They quietly build elaborate, often poignant, scenes in the sand. Adults who are engaged in traditional “talk therapy” may eventually feel there is a lack of progress because some experiences for adults are difficult to fully capture on an emotional level when using only words. Sand Tray Therapy provides the opportunity for adults to fully explore their inner landscapes, including their personal histories, past traumas, current struggles, hopes, dreams, and anything that is blocking the way to achieving those dreams.
“There appears to be an incredible burden on school principals to find funding to help children; they can’t simply turn a blind eye to what they are being confronted with on a daily basis. Teachers are really struggling to help children. We know that addressing children’s psychological difficulties enhances their learning experience, but the extent and range of difficulties that children are presenting with in school needs urgent attention, not only to improve their educational chances but to help them deal with their emotional struggles”
Rosaleen McElvaney comments on difficulties facing primary schools in supporting the emotional wellbeing of children.
Emotional Wellbeing for Children
If we want our school staff to do what’s asked of them, then we need to make sure that their mental health and wellbeing is effectively supported.” Peter Fonaghy, CEO Anna Freud Centre, London
Teaching is a tough job. It can be immensely rewarding but also physically and emotionally draining. Safeguarding and mental health issues can be intense and complex. Children’s behavioural and emotional problems are increasing. Many schools recognise this and provide support for their staff. The new focus on children’s mental health though serves as an important reminder to us that we must couple support for school staff with the ambitions we have for children’s wellbeing. If we don’t we will be letting down all school staff.
The term “wellbeing” can be used to describe our holistic health, including our physical, mental and emotional health. When we have good levels of wellbeing we feel that life is in balance and that we can generally cope well. We feel motivated and engaged and can show resilience by “bouncing back” from life’s challenges.
School staff often juggle multiple tasks and demands so a focus on staff wellbeing has become increasingly important. Taking good care of staff both emotionally and practically helps them to perform to the best of their ability and ensures that they are better able to support pupils. Workloads, deadlines and challenging behaviours can all impact negatively on the wellbeing of school staff.
Poor mental wellbeing may impact on their ability to manage during key moments of stress in the classroom or at school. Staff who have good mental wellbeing are more likely to have the necessary resources to be able to manage and plan during or after stressful episodes whether with a pupil, a class, a colleague, an inspector or a parent.
It is important to recognise that taking time to enhance staff wellbeing can have many benefits for schools such as:
- Positive impact on pupils, including improved educational outcomes, as both staff and children and young people are more engaged
- Increased productivity of staff members
- Reduced absences from work in relation to sickness (both short term and long term)
- Staff being able to manage stress better and develop healthier coping strategies
- Improved job satisfaction, which can support retention
- Staff feeling valued, supported and invested in
How I can support staff wellbeing
As a psychotherapist in private practice, I can offer individual clinical supervision to principals and teaching staff who are struggling with classroom difficulties and if necessary provide psychotherapeutic support to those dealing with personal issues. Clients can be assured that they will receive a confidential and professional service in accordance with my MSc. (Psychotherapy) professional training and the IACP Code of Ethics and Practice. I am also available to support schools if there is a need for Crisis Intervention Counselling.
What is Sandtray Therapy? Sand Tray Therapy is a powerful projective psychotherapy that allows for the nonverbal expression …