The Tough Stuff – Activities And Games

The Tough Stuff – Activities and Games

Three Magic Wishes

 Rationale

It helps us to seek support and connect with others when we understand that others also have difficulties. This is a ten minute activity to help participants share difficulties and develop empathy for each other.

Materials

Old lamp or lantern

Activity

Magic lampAsk participants if they are familiar with the story of Aladdin who found the magic lamp. When Aladdin rubbed the lamp, a genie appeared and granted him three wishes. Explain to participants that we are going to imagine that this is Aladdin’s magic lamp. Pass the lamp around the group and ask participants to share three wishes that could fix any areas of difficulty in their life.

Discussion Questions

  • What was it like to imagine you could be granted three wishes that would fix any problem?
  • Were any of your wishes realistic?
  • Is there any way you could help make the wishes come true?

Depression

Rationale

Worried girl about changing habitsDepressed teenagers and children may experience difficulty asserting themselves. They may have trouble expressing their true feelings and asking for what they need or want. They can also succumb to peer group pressure. True assertiveness stems from self-awareness; knowing what you are asking for. To be self-aware you must know and understand your body, your thoughts, your wants and your needs.

Materials

  • Paper
  • Pencils or pens

Procedure

  1. Explain to participants that we will be talking about depression, its meaning, prevention and treatment.
  2. Ask the group to discuss:
    1. What does ‘depression’ mean?
    2. How does depression affect young people today?
  3. After the discussion, give each participant a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. Ask them to draw a stick figure of a person. On the left hand side of the stick figure’s head ask them to write down any thoughts that might occur to a depressed person. When that is done ask them to wrote on the right hand side of the stick figure’s head, the positive thoughts that could help prevent and deal with depression.
  4. Next ask participants to list the feelings of depression on the left hand side of the body and positive feelings on the right hand side of the body.
  5. When finished, ask participants to write on the left hand side of the feet, unhealthy actions which may contribute to depression. Then on the right hand side, healthy actions which may help to combat depression.
  6. Ask participants to share their pictures with the group.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think young people can help themselves feel better when they are depressed?
  • What are some of the common causes of depression?
  • How will you use what you have learned today?

Divorce

Rationale

Broken heartDivorce and separation of parents is a common possibility or reality for young people today. It is normal for children in these situations to feel as though they are in some way responsible for or have caused the divorce or separation. Young people in these situations need to be told that the divorce is not their fault but that it is normal to worry that it is. Children of divorced or separated parents can struggle with feeling isolated, guilty and ashamed. Sharing and talking about these feelings can be helpful.

Materials

  • Three large pieces of cardboard, labelled as follows: ‘Fears about Divorce’, ‘How to Help a Friend Whose Parents are Divorced’ and ‘The Reality of Your Parents’ Being Divorced’.
  • Coloured markers or felt pens

Procedure

  1. Explain to the group that we will be discussing the effects of divorce on children today. Invite participants to share any thoughts or experiences they have in relation to divorce or separation of parents.
  2. Discuss the common feelings of guilt, shame and isolation that often exist in children of divorced parents. Discuss also the feelings of responsibility that many children of divorce have, as if the divorce was their fault.
  3. Bring out the three pieces of cardboard.
  4. Give each participant a felt pen or marker and ask them to list their feelings, thoughts, struggles, experiences and questions on each side of the sheets of cardboard. The first board, ‘Fears About Divorce’, should include any statements, questions, phrases or pictures that express feelings of fear about their parents’ relationships or feelings about divorce in general. The second board, ‘How to Help a Friend whose Parents Are Divorced’, should include things participants think will help friends whose parents are divorced. This could include comments they wish others had made to them. The third board, ‘The Reality of Your Parents’ Being Divorced’, should include things about the reality of the effects on themselves in particular and children of divorce generally.
  5. When everyone is finished, display the three sheets of cardboard and discuss what has been written.

Discussion Questions

  • What did you learn today that would be helpful to yourself or a friend whose parents are divorced?
  • How did this activity help you talk about and explore your feelings about divorce?
  • How will you use what you have learned today?

Understanding Loss

Rationale

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As well as occurring with the loss of a loved one, thee stages of grief are common with other types of loss too such as divorce, loss of a friendship, loss of a pet, moving schools etc. Each person moves through the stages of grief at a different pace. In this activity participants will explore the different stages, identify where they are and understand the different feelings associated with loss. Those participants who have not experienced this type of loss, can learn the ways in which they can help a friend who has.

Materials

Procedure

  1. Ask participants to share any experiences they have with grief and loss through questions such as:
    1. Who or what in your life have you lost?
    2. Is this loss the death of a loved one? If so, how did the person die? Who told you about the death or loss?
    3. What was your first feeling when you found out about the death or loss?
    4. How are you currently dealing with the death or loss?
    5. No one should be forced to share if they do not feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Hand out the Five Stages of Grief handout to each participant and read each stage aloud.
  3. Ask participants to circle the stage they believe they are currently in. Reinforce the notion that it is normal for everyone to move through the stages at a different pace and to move back and forth between the stages.
  4. When they have finished, ask participants to brainstorm different feelings associated with each stage and write them on the back of the handout. Have participants share their answers with the group if they feel comfortable doing so.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel when talking about your loss?
  • How can you take care of yourself while you are going through the stages of grief?
  • How will you use what you have learned today?

Self-Harm

Rationale

When someone self-harms, they deliberately injure themselves. Young people may self-harm as a means of coping with difficult situations. The self-harm may occur daily or only in pressure situations. Young people engaged in self-harm should always be referred for professional help.  Professionals dealing with young people who self-harm will focus on the feelings surrounding the self-harm rather than merely suggesting that the person stop (they may not yet be ready to do so). It is important not to pass judgement on the person engaged in self harm (for example, to comment that it is silly behaviour and you cannot understand why someone would do it). It is also important not to ask to see the scars, marks or otherwise comment on the person’s appearance. Self-harm is behaviour which arises from a person’s inability to cope and adequately express their feelings. This activity focuses in teaching participants the difference between inside and outside feelings and how to express their deepest emotions in a positive way.

Materials

  • A t-shirt for every participant – you can ask them to bring an old one from home
  • Safety pins
  • Index cards
  • Coloured markers or felt pens

Procedure

  1. Begin with a group discussion on self-harm. Invite participants to share their personal story. If a participant does not self-harm, they can share a story about a friend or listen to the others so they can learn about the behaviour and how to help someone who is self-harming.
  2. Tell participants we are now going to discover the difference between what they are feeling on the inside and how they show it on the outside.
  3. Have each person put their t-shirt on inside out and collect several index cards.
  4. Ask participants to think about what they (or others) might be feeling on the inside when they deliberately hurt themselves. Write down one feeling per index card and safety pin the cards to the t-shirt.
  5. Discuss the feelings they have pinned to the t-shirt. When the discussion is finished, ask participants to unpin the inside feelings and turn the t-shirt the right way out.
  6. Ask participants to write on the back of each index card, how they can express on the outside what they are feeling on the inside in a healthy manner. For example, if the feeling is anger, he or she might write, “Go for a run” or “Hit a punching bag” on the card.
  7. Encourage participants to come up with multiple healthy alternatives to self-harm, then pin the cards to the outside of the shirt. Ask participants to share what they have written.
  8. Ask participants to unpin their cards (they are welcome to keep them as a reminder of the healthy alternatives they came up with). As they are doing so, begin a conversation about the importance of allowing others to see your true feelings and not hiding them.

Discussion Questions

  • What did this activity mean to you? What have you learned about yourself?
  • In the future, if you feel the need to self-harm and the healthy alternatives are just not working, whom can you call?
  • How will you use what you have learned today?

Group Discussion Questions For The Tough Stuff

The following questions can be used to lead a group discussion on the tough stuff:

  1. What do you think is the biggest issue facing young people?
  2. Have you or someone you know struggled with a mental health issue? Discuss
  3. What kind of experiences, if any, have you had with death? How did you deal with them?
  4. What do you do when you are really sad?
  5. Talk about a time(s) when you have felt alone and totally helpless.
  6. Do you think other people understand your situation?
  7. Do you know anyone who cuts themselves or do you have any experiences with cutting?
  8. Do you think that cutting, eating disorders, suicide attempts and the like are done for attention?
  9. People who cut sometimes say they do so to feel better. How do you think cutting relieves pain? What are some alternatives to cutting?
  10. A big fear that people who cut have is that their parents or other adults will tell them they are ‘crazy’ and should ‘just stop’. What do you think about those remarks?
  11. Talk about your home life. Do you have one parent or two? Assuming you had two parents when you were born, are they still together? Do you live in a happy household? Do you enjoy your family?
  12. What do you think you would do if a friend of yours was suicidal?
  13. Have you ever been put in a bad situation where you were really worried about a friend and felt that you needed to tell somebody, but swore that you wouldn’t?
  14. When do you think it is OK to break a promise to a friend?
  15. How do you think that being a teenager today is tougher than it was for your parents
  16. When you are going through a tough time, whom can you reach out to?
  17. What are some healthy things you can do to keep you sane when you are faced with a tough situation?

Write A Letter

 Rationale

Although it seems a little old fashioned, writing a letter is a powerful and cathartic way for you to connect with yourself and share your true feelings.

Materials

Pen and paper

Activity

Choose a letter to write from the following suggestions and let it all out! Don’t give the letter to anybody. Either put it away in a safe place or rip it up and toss the pieces in the wastebasket when you are done.

  1. Write a letter to yourself when you were younger, explaining that everything will be OK as you grow up.
  2. Write a letter to the feeling or issue you have been struggling with, telling it to stop taking over your life. For example, you might decide to write a letter to your depression, your anger, your loneliness, your eating disorder, your chaotic mind or your anxiety.
  3. Write a letter to someone you have lost. Let this person know what is going on in your life and how much you miss him or her.
  4. Write a letter to someone in your life you care about, and let the person know how you feel about him or her.
  5. Write a letter to someone in your life you are having a problem with. Tell the person how you truly feel and how you need for him or her to change to help you.
  6. Write a letter to a higher spiritual power that you believe in.
  7. Write a letter to yourself in ten years. Write what you think you will be doing and how much you have accomplished along the way.

Family Feuds

Rationale

FamilyOur families can have both a very positive and a very negative impact upon our lives. There are things that both push and pull our families. The things that pull families together include family history, family culture, extended family relationships, family traditions, family stories. The things that push family members apart include family secrets, violence, hurtful words, lies and more. The push and pull in families can be a source both of great support and much frustration, sadness and anger. This activity helps participants explore their families and discover the pushes and pulls which make their family unique.

Materials

  • Two magnets for each participant

Procedure

  1. Show participants a set of magnets and explain how they can be attracted to each other and pull each other closer, but those same magnets can also push each other away when the opposite sides are used.
  2. Give a set of magnets to each participant and allow them time to play, watching how they attract and repel.
  3. Ask participants to describe the similarities they see between the magnets and family relationships. You could give examples of the types of things that push and pull families together and apart.
  4. Ask each participant to give an example of a way in which their family pulls itself together and a way in which it pushes itself apart.
  5. When everyone has had a turn, ask participants to think about and then share ways they can help keep their families strong, rather than pushing people’s buttons and keeping their families at a distance.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think family members hurt each other?
  • Why do you think it is hard for family members to talk to each other about problems?
  • How will you use what you have learned today?