In association with Limerick’s Mental Health Week, MyMind hosted ‘Child’s Play’, an interactive mental health art and play workshop for children and parents in the Granary Library, on Monday, October 8.
The workshop catered for children between the ages of six years old to twelve years old. It consisted of activities to introduce children to coping skills in certain situations and teaching the importance of empathy.
Inez Hasenfuss, an adolescent psychologist who presented the workshop hoped that Ireland will follow suit with countries France where philosophy classes have been introduced into their primary school curriculum.
“The biggest problem I find with children I’ve worked with is those who don’t feel integrated. With the modern world of technology, they lack direct, personal contact. They just don’t know what it means.
“These days children need communication skills. That’s the base of this workshop. Usually what I do is I work with parents and they take skills home or I work with a child on a one-to-one basis,” Inez said.
Inez also expressed concerns that the need for children to be seen by a counsellor or psychotherapist, in particular with adolescents, has risen. This calls for workshops like these to be introduced into schools to introduce kids into mental health awareness.
In the workshop, Inez showed the children a way to communicate their emotions through drawing. This was done by a story-telling page which was folded into various segments. The kids would then draw a story of a situation in which they felt sad and how they got better. With great enthusiasm, the children began drawing their stories and showed them to each other.
The next segment was introducing the star of the show – Empi the Octopus. This exercise encouraged the children to think about ways that we can show empathy to a person.
“If we are empathetic to somebody else they feel seen, they feel met and so that’s what I want to discuss with this picture,” said Ines.
“Empathy doesn’t mean anything to them at that age. It’s for the parents to know and for the children to know how to get on with others in a good way.”
Bringing a character like Empi into the workshop meant that a complicated word like ‘empathy’ to a child could be accessible and understood in simpler terms.
Between segments, while the children coloured, this gave space for Inez to speak with the parents. She asked them how they connect with their child at home and if they introduced a method of sharing emotions in the home. Some parents asked for advice on how to approach certain situations.
One question, in particular, was how to get their child to open up about something that’s happening but without being too pushy. Inez replied explaining that art is a great medium to express themselves.
“You can see from a simple drawing. If a child uses black, browns and reds, that’s a red flag where you would have to look at what’s going on. If it’s constantly sad drawings and perhaps the child is withdrawn,” he said.
Since doing presentations with children, Inez Hasenfuss has been called to speak at schools to prevent bullying and to help the class to bond. This has been particularly helpful in schools where classes might not be functioning well together.
“A school gave me a call and I enquired about class size and then organised something. I asked the teacher what the issue was and I think that’s what should happen. People who work in that field should go and allow an influence to come in from the outside. This way it has a different impact.”
MyMind offers individual counselling and psychotherapy sessions to adults face-to-face or online. While adolescents and children are offered counselling, psychotherapy and creative art therapy services. Find out more here