How a Jigsaw Puzzle can Help Your Child if You’re Splitting Up

Laura fidgets in her chair and struggles to understand the tsunami of emotions she feels about her Mum and Dad splitting up. Why don’t they love each other anymore? Does this mean they don’t love her anymore? What is her place in this “new” family structure? Will she need to pick a side? The questions just create more confusion.

I sense her difficulty and hand her two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. She is surprised, jolted out of her angst and now intrigued. She fiddles with them and eventually tries to put them together but realises that she can’t.

“Which one is wrong”? I ask gently.

“They’re not wrong” she answers after a pause. “They just don’t go together”. Something begins to feel a bit better. The two pieces are what they are. They just don’t go together. I ask her to look at the back of the pieces. On one I have written “Mum” and on the other, “Dad”.

I hand her a third piece. She looks on the back and sees her name. She smiles. She knows what I’m up to. She puts her piece in the middle and the “Mum” and the “Dad” pieces fit perfectly on either side. She still “fits” with them both.

No words are spoken for a while. She sits with this. This simple technique has affected her and she will always remember its impact on her.

These and other “Impact Techniques”, devised by psychologist, Danie Beaulieu can create insight and emotional change far beyond their simplicity. I have seen it countless times in therapy sessions. Here, Laura, no longer needed words to articulate how she felt. I could have reassured her but by creating surprise, arousing emotion and giving her a visual demonstration of how she fits in despite this difficult change in her life, the impact is far deeper.

Laura takes the pieces home so she has a reminder of this new perspective whenever she needs it.

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