“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”

Posted on: 3rd February 2012

This blog post comes from the Head of our Children’s Service, Jane. People often ask us what happens in Circle Time in the Children’s Centre – this is a great explanation of how it sometimes unfolds …

“Look, right, I’m a fairy and me ‘n’ my angries are stomping on the flowers.”

Picture the scene – Dereje (not his real name) is 7 and is proudly wearing fairy wings whilst brandishing a feather boa as he stamps around the room.

It’s 6:15 on a Tuesday night and it’s circle time for the 6-9 year olds in the Children’s centre. This is the time in the evening when we encourage the children to express their worries, feelings and opinions on issues directly affecting them. We work with them to teach them ways of coping with times when those feelings and situations feel overwhelming. Each week we take a different theme and this week we are thinking about being angry.

At the moment we’re in the middle of a visualisation exercise aimed at helping the children be aware of and safely manage their angry feelings. I’ve asked them to imagine a place they can go to when they’re angry. In this place they feel safe and happy and can bring out any angry feelings to make friends with them. They’ve pictured their angry feelings as ‘wild things’ like those in the popular children’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak and are now in the middle of acting out the ‘wild rumpus’ where they take control of their anger rather than feeling it is in control of them.

It’s been an emotionally charged session as the children have opened up about the difficulties they’re facing. The list ranges from bullying at school to parents who are in hospital. The common theme is a feeling of helplessness that’s leading to anger. There’s a palpable sense of tension in the air as the children relive and revive their angry memories. Dereje has found it particularly hard and has become tense and a little withdrawn.

So, let’s get back to Dereje and his ‘angries’. He’s the last of the group to show what he has imagined and has been waiting with barely contained patience. Now he has a look of fierce determination on his face and is so completely caught up in his twirling and stamping his tongue has started to poke out in the way that happens with children when they concentrate. He gives a snarl and with a final flourish of the feather boa turns triumphantly to face his admiring audience.

There’s a moment of astounded silence, then one of the children starts getting a fit of the giggles and soon everyone, including Dereje and myself are laughing so hard we can barely speak. The laughter slowly gives way to rapturous applause for an Oscar winning performance. Dereje seems to grow 6 feet and takes a bow before re-arranging his fairy wings so he can sit down. The tension of the evening has been melted away by the laughter.

We finish with a question. “Have you learnt anything tonight that you are going to try and use?” The response from one of the girls is instant “I’m going to use Dereje’s angry picture. It made me laugh so much, that will always get my angries out.” The others voice their enthusiastic agreement. “Yeah, laughing the angries out. That’s the best way.”

Thanks to memories of a certain pink feather boa I’m still laughing now.

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