in mid-april, i went out of town for a long weekend to celebrate a friend’s baby blessing while N stayed at home with daddy. i don’t get the opportunity to travel sans-kiddo very often, so as my trip approached, N found herself getting anxious about my departure. i wanted to share with you this story of how she used art to find a way to cope with this.
before my trip, we got a book at the library called the kiss box. this was serendipity, as we did not pre-read it before checking it out, but it came in handy in the days leading up to my weekend away. the story is about a momma bear who needs to go away from her little bear for a while, and the little bear suggests creating a box to put kisses in. the momma can take this with her and get a kiss whenever she needs one while away, and the little bear asks momma to make a box for him to have at home for the same purpose.
and wouldn’t you know it… the day before my trip, when i came home from work, N gifted me with a kiss box of my very own. she told me that she put 116 kisses inside for me to have while i was away.
she asked me to make one for her, too. and i did – immediately. she wanted to listen to me fill it with the kisses. i put 121 inside while she counted.
i carried my kiss box in my purse during my weekend trip, and kept it by my bedside when i slept. i did get kisses from it every morning and night, and a couple throughout the day.
when N and i spoke over the phone while i was away, we asked each other how many kisses we used that day. it was a fun way to stay connected despite the distance.
in addition to being fun, this art activity really shows how art can serve as a transitional object, and thus be therapeutic for children throughout their individuating from parents and when experiencing separation. according to mahler’s object-relations theory, transitional objects are external symbols for internal needs, though the child thinks of these objects as an extension of the body. object relations theory dovetails with attachment theory in that the primary care giver is the first transitional object, and often a child’s blanket or teddy bear can end up becoming a transitional object.
what’s so lovely about art therapy is that it can uniquely support this concept because the art made can also be viewed as an extension of the self, neither external nor internal. the art then becomes a holding environment for the child, which will increase his or her ability to tolerate object attachment and loss. in this case, the kiss box was a good reminder of my presence when i wasn’t able to be there with my daughter. and let me tell ya, the homecoming was spectacularly sweet!
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