I met with Leah for half an hour in early March, after having spoken to her mother at length. I wanted to get to know her a little, and to get a feel for the issues I’d be dealing with.
At the beginning, when I asked her if she has friends, she told me she does, but she quickly became more comfortable with me. She showed me some of the silly things she does, discussed very openly her problem behaviors, and when I asked her which thing we should work on first, she told me “friends.”
At our first full session, we discussed the traffic light, as well as red and green behaviors, and yellow feelings. I focused very much on yellow, which can lead us to do red if we’re not careful. I told her that not only children have to be careful about yellow feelings which could make them do reds, but adults, too, have to be careful.
This activity forced her to put herself in someone else’s shoes and to understand how another person would feel in a given situation.
I presented a scenario in which a mother has spent the entire day cleaning her house and is tired, and then the children come home from school and pull out all of the toys and make a mess. I asked her, “How do you think the mother is feeling?” Leah was able to tell me the mother is sad and upset. “What red behavior might the mother do if she’s not careful?” Yell at the kids. “But are kids really allowed to play with toys? Of course they are! So what green behavior could the mother do instead?” Leah had all the correct answers. She was very good at identifying the red behaviors and coming up with a variety of green solutions that could be done instead. I praised her for her creative solutions, even though we hadn’t even talked about solutions yet.
Then we did some role playing of different scenarios, and acted out red and green behaviors for each scenario. I also did a role reversal with her. I told her that she would be her mother and I was going to be Leah. She instinctively wanted to protest, thought better of it almost immediately, and cooperated with the activity. This activity forced her to put herself in someone else’s shoes and to understand how another person would feel in a given situation. I could see the light dawning as we did this activity.
(To be continued: Part III)