The sand tray is still by far one of my favorite therapeutic tools for all ages. Recently, I have been working with even more children who have experienced trauma and come to school hyper-aroused (basically in the fight or flight stage). I looked through my sand tray trying to find the most vulnerable, and helpless feeling miniature and decided on a small egg in a nest. Eggs rely on the adult birds for care and protection and are susceptible to environmental dangers. This reminded me of the community violence many children face daily as well.
I started using the prompt “This egg does not feel safe and it can’t change or control that very much. Can you help it feel safe, happy, and cared for?”
I have found children are so eager to find a way to protect the egg. This is such an empowering intervention because the child also is able to engage in themes of nurturing, such as finding the egg suitable caregivers.
This intervention can be very revealing as well. I had a child once go to great lengths to protect the egg by covering the nest, creating fences, adding walls, and even have guards and rules about no guns. After he was finished, I asked “Can you tell me all the feelings the egg has now.” The child reported the egg felt safe, happy (to not be outside in the danger) and also bored and lonely. He reported the egg felt just like him cooped at home because of all the shooting and drug deals that go on along his street.
I think it is important to ask “Can you tell me all the feelings the egg has now?” after the child reports being finished with what they created. Some exploring and problem solving may be encouraged at this stage as well.
This intervention can also be done with cardboard and materials that allows the children to take the safe place home.