Tag Archives: Kids

How Shattered Pots Help With Grief & Loss

The following recipe was originally used at Olivia’s House – a grief and loss center for children in York, PA. I have expanded on the idea and use it to assist my younger clients as they process painful emotions related to grief and loss.

What You Need:

  • 1 medium size clay pot
  • large towel
  • small hammer
  • sharpie pen
  • large sheet of paper
  • glue gun/white glue
  • acrylic paint
  • a variety of objects: Pictures, words, silk flowers etc. to decorate exterior



Step 1: Break the pot.

Wrap the clay pot in towel to avoid flying shards of clay. Hold firmly in place on its side to break the pot with a hammer. You may have to tap it a few times. Ideally you want 8-10 broken pieces. Light pressure will suffice.

Gather broken pieces and place them (in any order) on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: Label the broken fragments of the pot.

Ask the child to list 8-10 of the emotions they are currently feeling the most. Try to match the size of each shard in relation to the intensity of each feeling. For example, if the child says that his or her strongest emotion is fear, then label the largest fragment “fear.” Continue until all fragments are labeled with each of the feelings expressed by the child. Take your time with this step, because it is important. Talk about the difficulty of the loss and the various emotions that the child is currently feeling.

Ensure the labeled feelings are on the inner curved sections of the pot, because when you glue the pot back together, you want to see the words inside. (See attached picture.)

Step 3: Glue pieces back together

Hot glue the pot back together. This is not any easy process and is a metaphor for the rebuilding process after loss. This is a messy and sometimes complicated step, and the difficulty of reassembling can be discussed in relation to the child’s emotional rebuilding process. Also at this point, it is a good time to talk about the symbol of the glue. You may want to ask, “Who has helped glue your life back together?”

Allow glue to cool and dry.

Step 4: Decorate the exterior of the pot

Paint the exterior of the pot with acrylic paint and any variety of plastic flowers, healing words, inspirational phrases or pictures. The scrapbook isle of your local craft store is a good place to start for items. Use a glue gun or school glue for this step.

Step 5: Discussion

Talk about how life has changed since the loss, talk about how what steps the child has taken to put his or her life back together. Discuss the people who have helped and how and if they found hope, support and love. This process is completed over a series of days or weeks.

Each step is a contemplative process.

As therapists, we sometimes feel uncomfortable remaining in the shattered stages phase with our clients, and seek to move forward to the “making it better” or healing stage. This is a disservice to our clients, because we should allow each person to take their time and fully process their emotions.

Be gentle with yourself, with others, allow yourself and others to grieve fully and be patient as they open their heart to the next step.

Thank you Leslie Delp, Executive Director of Olivia’s House for everything you do to support grieving children and their families!

Thank you for being here.

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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When Summer Lacks Instagram-Style “Disney Moments”

Looking through Facebook and Instagram, or listening to other parents and Grandparents discuss their summer plans, and I become convinced that everyone, except for me, is having a Disney Summer.

“Disney Summers” are filled with sun drenched smiles, laughter and meaningful moments that can only be achieved on an expensive vacation or in a lavish beach house.

Meanwhile, parents who can’t afford these high-end vacations often tend to think that they’re missing out and depriving their children of a thrilling, brag-worthy summer adventure.

The expectations for a Norman Rockwell summer are on par with our expectations for the perfect Christmas! The pressure to create summer memories and stimulating educational experiences for our children, ultimately leads to our own exhaustion and frustration.

Disney SummersParenting has become more challenging and complex, because we’ve wrongly equated how much we love our children with how much we are willing to spend on them. The rising expectations of a meaningful summer can be overwhelming for those of us on a tight budget or for parents who are working a full-time job.

Those picture perfect moments that you see all over your newsfeed might make you feel guilty for not providing your own child with these far-off adventures, but we have to understand that these trips do very little for their self-esteem and development.  The truth is, parents often make the mistake of attempting to purchase an idealized moment for their children, but good times don’t have to come at a high price!

Good parenting is when your child is bored on the sofa and you allow him or her to complain, and then encourage your child to daydream and create an experience for themselves. Creativity thrives when it is nurtured. This happens when a child is given unstructured time and space. You may say, ‘Well my child is creative at summer camp” but camps are carefully managed and structured environments. The same can be said for vacations, where there is constant stimulation and activities planned throughout the day.  Natural creativity often happens at home -on the sofa, in the kitchen in the backyard; these are the familiar, comfortable places that are the fertile ground for mental growth and creativity.

Summer vacations and sleep away camps have their place, and everyone needs to get away from the mundane routine of life, sometimes. However, parents need to lower the bar just a little to allow time for boredom and downtime.  Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty every time our child complains of boredom.

Try providing blank sheets of paper, a box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils for a start. Ask your kids to write their own adventure story and to make themselves the main character. Set up a tent in their bedroom or the living room and give them some books and a flashlight! For older children, it can be more challenging, but you can ask them to re-create scenes from their favorite movies and have another sibling film the production and then play it for a night of family entertainment.

Another way to take the pressure off of parents is to let your children play outdoors and limit screen time to allow for other interest. Overstimulation inhibits creativity and self-awareness and this is why parents are finding it increasingly difficult to get their children off of these devices. These gadgets are addicting, and as a smart phone user myself, I know  how this is challenging for adults, too, especially since they keep us plugged-in and working even when we’re not at our desks.

If we want to break these bad habits, we have to learn to unplug and to encourage our children to do the same.

Let them be the masters of their own creativity and encourage them to have confidence in their own abilities, and then sit back and watch the show! After all, it is summertime – a time for adults and children to relax and slow down!

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Website: http://thedrawinganalyst.com/

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Karen Stabley ATR BC


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How To Make Squishy Putty

Squishy Putty

PARENTAL WARNING: The first two weeks of summer can be a difficult transition as children move from structured days to a new routine. This can be taxing to parents and siblings, alike!

Karen's kids for blog
Karen’s children, many years ago, when playing with squishy putty was one of their favorite pastimes!

One way to alleviate summer boredom is to have a strategy and to plan some activities that can be accessed quickly. My clients’ favorite activity is one that provides sensory stimulation, is interactive and can be stored to use as needed.

Follow this simple recipe for squishy putty:


One cup of all-purpose white glue (not school glue)

One cup of water

One teaspoon of Borax

Three tablespoons of water


Mix the Borax and water until the Borax is dissolved. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the glue and water. At this point you can add food coloring and scents if desired. Mix well, and then add the Borax and water mixture. Knead together and watch as the mixture transforms into a lovely squishy putty.

This will provide hours of creative play for your children as they squish the putty in their hands, create patterns, and make impressions of rocks, leaves and sticks. The inexpensive nature of this squishy putty allows it to be used for several weeks and then thrown out. To keep it fresh, simply store it in a Ziploc bag.

Happy Squishing!

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