Dr. Charlotte Reznick started her counseling career at an inner-city school in Los Angeles where her students’ struggles with challenges at home made it hard to keep their focus on their studies. As part of her continuing education, Dr. Reznick took a workshop from the staff of Paradise Unified School District. By helping children find their own centered calm, the practitioners said, kids could improve academically. She took the tools she learned through her trainings and extensive reading and began applying them in her own school’s classroom. Sure enough the kids’ behavior improved. Through sessions the students became less stressed and more focused.
Helping them find their inner wisdom
“I tell teenagers, I don’t have your answers but I can help you find them because I know they’re inside somewhere,” says Dr. Reznick. “Children have so much wisdom inside and we just have to help kids learn to center themselves because when they’re centered, that’s when they connect with that.”
Dr. Reznick is now a nationally recognized child and educational Psychologist and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA as well as the author of The Power of Your Child’s Imagination and companion CDs. For more than 20 years, she has worked with children with diverse challenges and experiences to craft a program that can help kids combat stress, focus their thoughts and move forward to their goals. Most of the exercises she describes in the book are interactive and she dives into nine tools that are the basis for tapping into the imagination.
“There was one little girl in elementary school who tracked me down eight years later,” recalls Dr. Reznick. “She was president of the student body of her high school and she still remembers the imagery we did. She would picture herself climbing the mountain of success with an animal friend to help her with all the tools she would need to reach the top of the mountain and reach her goals. She told me that when she stands in front of the auditorium in front of the student body that’s still what she imagines.”
Imagination for relaxation and relief
For children who experience stress because of their special needs challenges or who have experienced trauma related to their health issues, helping them use their their imagination can help them cope. Dr. Reznick recommends that parents help children start at first by imagining “an animal friend” or “wizard” who can accompany kids to scary appointments or stressful situations. Kids might also choose a favorite stuffed animal or a family pet and ask themselves, “What would my special friend tell me to do?” This can help kids release themselves from their stuck feelings of fear or sadness while still connecting them with their intuition.
“What happens is what you ask someone outside of yourself it kind of tricks your mind a little bit,” Dr. Reznick explains, adding that as children advance they can begin to internalize their meditation by asking, “What does my heart want?” or “What is my stomach telling me?”
For tough situations
Kids can use their imaginations to help them cope with real ones.
“One little boy I worked with was going on in for some bad tests at the hospital so he imagined a whole pride of lions around him protecting him,” Dr. Reznick says. “Animal friends are really great protectors. Children can also go to a special place and their parents can help them by telling them a story about that special place.”
Dr. Reznick often uses a magical garden for her clients as a metaphor for their bodies “growing healthy with healing water in the garden that washes the illness away.” She says some of the children find comfort by visualizing themselves bathing in the water or drinking it.
For kids who have trouble focusing, learning how to “balloon breathe” or deep breathe can help get them to a place where they’re ready for guided imagery. Dr. Reznick recommends that kids practice several times a day, trying to slow down their breathing and take fewer breaths in a minute each day.
“I often give out some little circle sticker dots and tell children to put them somewhere someplace stressful – on a door, schoolbooks or the rearview mirror,” she explains. “The idea is when you see it, you take three balloon breaths, whenever you see it, you just tune in several times a day.”
Dr. Reznick offers her book and CDs on her web site, Dr. Charlotte Reznick’s Imagery for Kids, to help parents learn along with their kids. She’s passed along one copy of her book for us to give away, which we will do randomly. You can purchase the book, The Power of Your Child’s Imagination here at Amazon. Co-founder of SfSN, Julia Roberts already purchased her own because she thinks it could really help her kids, citing, “This is one I want to keep. I want to open it up and write in the margins.”
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