The Happy Box
Sadness is normal until...
Sadness is a natural part of life, especially when real reasons for sadness arise. People that are sad can be in a state of mind that is hard to shake, feeling haunted by negative thoughts/emotions. With that said, sadness is part of life but should not paralyze us from living. An important part of child development is learning to accept sadness and then overcome.
Getting "out of sadness" usually requires an active "push".
In order for a person not to get "stuck" in a negative state of mind they need to push themselves, actively, towards more positive thoughts. This "push" is in many ways the same as when we push ourselves to work out. The hardest part is just getting up and onto the treadmill. After that the workout itself has already begun and with consistency can become more enjoyable, especially when positive results can be felt. Happiness rituals are like that treadmill. A sad person needs to push himself/herself to do something enjoyable even if the perception is that it will be a waste of time. It may be but then again, it may not.
The Happy Box allows you to give a child opportunities to take action.
As an educator you can support a child going through a sad period in their lives by encouraging moments of happiness. Enlisting a child to a daily happiness ritual allows him/her the opportunity to try to have a happy moment. A happy moment will show him/her that being more happy and thus being less sad is a reachable goal. The more happy moments he/she experiences, the more evident this sentiment becomes. In other words, actively sought happy moments encourage a change in mindset. Remember, even though you supply the opportunity for happy moments, the child still has to actively participate. For a sad person this can be more of an effort than many may realize. What you can do is “keep the door open”.
For This Tool You Will Need:
- a nice box
- small personal gifts
Preparing a Child's Happy Box
Take your time choosing the nice box. Make sure that the box is sturdy and that it clearly reflects in some way the child that you want to assist. Ensure to try to get parents involved.
When purchasing/making the personal gifts, think of items that would promote a moment of happiness. This moment can be funny, touching, beautiful, flattering, nostalgic, and so on. The gifts do not need to be extravagant but rather personal to you, the parents, the child, or all of you. Some teachers laminate small cards with images that can bring happiness. Others print out poems. One teacher made a large puzzle and each gift was one piece of the puzzle. The options are endless so feel free to be creative. Wrap each gift up separately. If other children want to take part in making this child happier then they can take part in making/wrapping the gifts.
Put some of the personal gifts into the nice box with a note that has his/her name on it and the words :"each day one gift". This is the child's Happy Box.
Using a Child's Happy Box
Put the Happy Box in a place that is easily accessible and easily noticeable to the child. Give him/her time to discover their Happy Box. If three days pass without the Happy Box being noticed bring it to the child's attention, telling them that you made them a gift that "keeps on giving". If you think that privacy is an issue then arrange to meet with the child privately, every day.
Once the Happy Box has been discovered, enlist the child to open it on a daily basis and unwrap one gift (and only one) per day. This is called a ritual of happiness. Once he/she has experienced that moment, they can leave the gift in the Happy Box or take it away. Do not ask them about their happiness ritual. How he/she relates to happiness is something that should optimally be discussed in a safe setting such as therapy. Your contribution is the encouragement and opportunity for happiness rituals. You can smile, however!
Ensure to continue to replenish gifts in the Happy Box so that there is always a selection of at least three new gifts to enjoy.
The Happy Box is a helpful tool but is not a substitute for professional intervention. If at any time the child is sad to the point of troubling signs (e.g. lack of appetite, changes in sleeping habits, ruminating over negative things, increased agitation) then inform his/her parents and/or the school psychologist. After 16 weeks have passed, stop using this tool. Use this tool at a maximum of once a year.