A few weeks ago, my friend and one of my editors, Kate linked to a piece on the Guardian about colouring in. On that page you can find ways to download samples form an incredible book called The Secret Garden. Not the secret garden many of us think about, by Hodgson Burnett, but a completely new colouring in book by Johanna Basford, full of intricate pen and ink drawings that you…colour in.
For reasons that I never worked out, I was unable to download and print out the sample pages, which forced me to buy the book, and I’m glad I did. It’s beautiful. My girls and I sat all afternoon and coloured in (for nearly FOUR HOURS).
There is something incredibly therapeutic about colouring in and this peaceful camaraderie descended upon us, with only minimal bickering over who had the red. We chatted and chatted and laughed and laughed. The eldest and I coloured in with more precision than the youngest, but I have to admit I love the anarchy of younger children armed with a colouring pencil (you do really need pencils for this).
In my column for the Guardian (where I look at family problems) I’ve always advised going for a drive if you think your child needs to talk. There’s something about the lack of eye contact and the constraints a car presents, that can help chidren talk about what’s troubling them. To this I’d like to also add – colouring in with your child. Perhaps it’s the lack of eye contact again, perhaps colouring in focuses but also empties your mind so you can do a bit of stock taking. Who knows. It works. My two chatted away. Not that they had anything in particular to say, but it struck me that if they did, this was the ideal place to do it.
And then I remembered that the first sort of therapy I ever had, not long out of my teens, the therapy that changed my life and undid all the ‘knots’ in my brain, was art therapy.