One of my passions within social work practice, is that of direct work with children.
Direct work takes on many forms, and can be used in so many ways, something I will cover at a later date however for now, I wish to share one of the tools I use to understand children's feelings.
My background to date includes six years of working with Looked After Children (LAC) in the UK and everything that comes with it.
What I love most about this role, is the long term relationships you can build with children and young people. The difference you can make, being able to see them grow and building a strong, trusting relationship with them.
When children trust you, they open up to you. Simple equation really? For me, it's at this point that you can begin getting to the heart of soul of that child, how they are feeling, what they really love? their fears? their dreams and what is it like to be in their shoes.
For some children, talking about their feelings is more then just hard. It's a scary and unbearable prospect where often, they wouldn't even know where to start. This is where the Feelings rainbow can come into play. There are many spins and adaptations to this tool, but it's easy enough to draw your own, or ask the child to draw it. Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash
Essentially, it looks as it sounds. A rainbow. A very simple, average looking (or more exciting if you want) rainbow. Red, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Orange, Purple, Green (the song version) or any version you like. Just a rainbow. The idea here then, is that the child(ren) can begin to connect the colours with feeling, for example:
- The colour blue can be a cold colour. How do you feel when your cold? Maybe connect it to the weather; On a cold wet day I feel..... because.... If the child(ren) uses words such as; sad, upset, hurt, ask them about a time when they have felt like this (or someone they know if personalising it is too difficult)
- The colour Red may be an angry colour. Can they tell you of a time they have felt angry? If this is too personal for them than again, make it about something eles; what might make a person angry? can you think of a time when someone you know has felt angry?
- Get them to write down or draw trigger words for feelings. use colours that match the rainbow: All angry words in red, Happy words in green or yellow.
- Can the chid(ren) give you examples of times they have felt these feelings? What happened?
- How would the of liked to have felt in that situation?
- Is there anything that could help them feel differently next time.
I love using the tool because there are no rules and no limits. Your not sat squarely looking at each other. Your both relaxed and able to get creative. Children can be as creative as they like. Lots of colour or no colour, the idea of the rainbow if to offer a focal point for conversation, that will support an open dialogue between you and the child(ren).
Ultimately, the purpose of this is to help you understand the child's world and what life is like for them at any given time. You can use this as a generic conversation starter, or a specific area.
For me, I've used it countless times during Life story work when talking to children about why they came in to care and are not able to live with their birth family. This is naturally, a very sensitive topic and by using the feelings rainbow, I can ascertain how the child feels throughout, as we work through the story of their life so far. You can incorporate aspirations and hopes for the future too.
I have used this with children aged 4 years and up to 12 years. I have not tested older then 12 years however, if you work with young people who engage well and like to get creative, there is no reason why this can no work for them too.