Garbage Bag Techniques
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Children hold in a lot of their problems instead of communicating them to adults or even to friends. Whether they are too frightened to reveal their problems or not consciously aware of what is bothering them, they feel bottled up with these feelings and have difficulty communicating and releasing their emotions. The garbage bag technique was developed to help children release problems they are holding and to follow up with playing out those problems in order to find some resolution or solution.
Materials needed are: 2 Paper Lunch Bags, Crayons or Markers, and Small Pieces Of Paper To Write Problems On.
Introduce the technique by giving the child a paper bag. Have them draw anything that they want to on the bag. Make sure that they know that it is theirs alone. Make sure that while they are decorating their bag that you also do one for yourself. While you are both decorating your own bag, talk to the child about garbage that we carry around with us.
"You know what garbage is? It's the stuff that you put in the garbage can when you are done with it. It's the stuff that turns green in the back of the refrigerator when it's been in there for too long. You know how things grow on top of it, and it looks yucky?
Well, what if all the garbage we threw out in the garbage cans was never picked up? What if weeks and weeks and months and months of garbage were left in your home?
Then there wouldn't be any place to walk or sit, and we would have to carry our garbage around with us wherever we went. We'd have to take it to school, to birthday parties, to bed with us, and we would never get rid of it.
Well, we keep garbage inside of ourselves as well. Things that bother us. Things that we can't stop thinking about.
After we finish decorating our bags, we will try to think of some of the things that we carry around in our heads that bother us. We will write them down on pieces of paper and we will put them in the bag until next time."
The next time that you meet with the child, you can get out your bags, and each of you pick one piece of garbage out of the bag to work on. You can play out the problem and often the child will come up with a solution themselves. If they are struggling, the adult can often find a way to play out a solution that the child will find acceptable. Having some small people figures available when it is time to play out the garbage from the bag is very helpful. Keeping everything in the third person is important to allow the child to have enough distance from the problem to solve it.