Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A day filled with rainbows, unicorns and glitter

     What color do you choose...Blue?  Red?  Green?  Purple?  What number do you choose?  One, or  eight, or something in between?
     Laraway Youth & Family Services' Child and Family Therapist, Margaret "Mag" Sladyk-Benoit, MSW, LICSW, engages many interesting "conversation starters" when working with young people in our programs.  A visit to her office reveals art supplies, games, cards and a sand table just waiting for busy hands.
     The homemade Paper Fortune Tellers caught this visitor's eye when visiting Mag in her office.  These simple paper contraptions are thought to have originated in Asia, home to origami paper crafts.  They first appeared in Europe in the 17th century.  The Trihexaflexagon---yes, this is its formal geometric name---continues to entertain children across Asia, Europe and North America.
     They go by many names:  snapdragon, cootie catcher, chatterbox, salt cellar, whirlybird, flipper and scrunchy.  The names don't matter.  The messages do.  Mag's designs are emblazoned with simple messages of affirmation---revealed after the counting and shifting of paper---for children and youth striving to find their place in our world.
     "Your day will be filled with rainbows, unicorns and glitter."
     "You are a strong person---stay focused on your goals."
     "Believe in yourself.  Believe in who you are.  Stand up for what you believe."
     "Say something nice about yourself."
     "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
     "Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath.  Talk about something or somebody who makes you happy."
     "Tell about one good deed you have done today."
     "You are awesome---don't forget that!"
     It's from these conversations that Mag and her colleagues are able to help children address the challenges they face while finding positive ways to move forward.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chutes and Ladders

            The British play a game called “Snakes and Ladders” which we call “Chutes and Ladders” in the United States. Many of us grew up playing this seemingly simple board game.  It's based on the ancient Indian game of Moshka-Patamu. The “play” serves as a metaphor for life, integrating ideas of virtue, vice and reincarnation. The Victorians adapted the game to its modern version.
            Our life journeys can sometimes feel random, with unexpected twists. We take a step forward. We stumble. We fall. We slide down a chute---losing leverage, power, or station. We pick ourselves up and move on. Someone gives us a boost onto a ladder, leading to new and unforeseen places. Sometimes it’s our hand lending support to a fellow climber.
            At Laraway, we work with children and youth who've experienced stumbles along life's road.  Whether the challenges relate to family struggles, mental health issues or learning challenges, our approach is to support the whole child...and their family.  We stand ready to lend a hand.  We share this journey together.  We are all climbers.