Supporting Schools After Lockdown 4/7: How I Held You in Mind
Bowlby described the experience of being held in mind as one of life’s great privileges. How might teachers share this with children from whom they have been separated during lockdown? In the fourth part of her blog series supporting the reopening of schools, Emma Connor, child psychotherapist and director of Your Space Therapies, introduces some useful classroom resources for reinforcing invisible attachments, from ‘borrow boxes’ to therapeutic stories.
In the short term, the school closure might have felt catastrophic to children, parents, carers and teachers. In the long term, we have an opportunity to show these children we thought about them often, care about them, hold them in our hearts and minds, and that they make a significant impact on us and their school community. This is a great gift.
Bowlby said, ‘When a child is held in mind, the child feels it, and knows it. There is a sense of safety, of containment, and, most important, existence in that other, which has always seemed to me vital… It seems to me that one of life’s greatest privileges is just that – the experience of being held in someone’s mind.’
This concept will be paramount to children’s emotional recovery from Covid-19. It is as simple as teachers finding creative ways to demonstrate that each child was nestled in their thoughts, memories and hearts during the lockdown.
Symbols of connection
Some children first need a physical connection to instill the concept that they are held in mind. This could be demonstrated by the child choosing a sticker for them and the teacher to wear each morning. The teacher touches the sticker every time the child is brought into their awareness or they pass by the child.
Holding in mind Winnicott’s ‘transitional phenomena’, it could be that the child and teacher develop a special gesture when they see each other and that holding in mind this ritual is an extension of holding in mind the uniqueness of their relationship, and the invisible attachment they have.
Children may need Transitional Objects (Winnicott) to help them develop fluidity in their comings and goings from school. We know that when we are anxious we often regress in age. When this happens, children may return to original sources of comfort and most children will have been aided in their first experiences of transition from their primary attachment figure by a transitional object.
Introducing this, with clear boundaries, can help keep them connected. Schools could introduce ‘borrow boxes’, where children can pick from a selection of classroom items to take home and return. Children could also bring a special object from home that symbolises the invisible string connecting the child and their significant people at home.
There are many beautifully written stories about the experience of being held in mind that can be read to children at this time. They speak through metaphors to their subconscious and allow
s them to feel connected with this concept. Stories like Owl Babies (Martin Waddell), Nothing (Mick Inkpen) and The Mummy Glue (Tee Dobinson) have supportive undertones that affirm the message: when I am not with you, I think of you because you are special and important.
We can even learn to write our own therapeutic stories. Your Space Therapies offers this course online via our website, so teacher can offer a story to a child or their whole class, specifically and empathically written with them in mind – a true gift.
Of course, nothing is simpler than speaking your feelings. We should be confident in telling children of times we thought about them; what we thought of and when, objects and goings-on in the world that remind us of them. To have these personal and unique examples of how you sit in another’s mind is to feel whole, contained and cherished.
Your Space Therapies Limited offers counselling and psychotherapy for children and families, in person and online during the pandemic. For more information about their online mental health conferences, specifically designed to support children, professionals and school communities with emotional recovery from Covid-19, visit www.yourspacetherapies.org.