Parent’s Notes for The Happy Flap
1) This story is written to help kids (and adults) to open themselves to experiencing joy. It’s easy to get stuck in a bad mood, so this story is designed to help readers change their inner position to allow themselves to access feelings of joy.
2) It’s really important for kids (and adults) to acknowledge and feel all their feelings, be they happy, sad, frustrated, jealous, affectionate, angry, hurt, embarrassed, etc. This story is not written to over-ride or discount the gamut of feelings that children rightfully experience and need to feel.
3) Philosopher Rudolph Steiner considered storytelling to be an effective way of enriching early childhood learning and for changing difficult behaviour. Reading The Happy Flap to your child can be effective on it’s own, without further discussion.
Try reading this story to your child every day for a week and observe any changes. If your child want’s to talk about their Happy Flap, by all means engage them on it. After a while talking about their ‘flap’ as open or closed might become part of how you discuss their openness to their environment or to happiness.
You can help them to open a shut flap by asking them “What is something you could feel thankful for today?” Offer a few options. If your child can come up with something on their own it will help them connect to their own feelings of genuine appreciation, which will lead to happiness.
Dance or Draw:
When you can see your child is responding to the story by celebrating the things that they
really appreciate in their lives, you can encourage them to dance or draw the feeling. If you choose drawing, you can help them along by asking your child to let the feeling do the drawing. Ask ‘what colours would the feeling choose?’ And let them decide the answer, or suggest that the child ‘let the feeling push the crayons/pencils around the page’. This drawing is not about making a pretty picture. Stand back and let your child express freely, without having to discuss it, critique it or ask why.
Celebrate whatever your child draws, then put it up somewhere so they can see it and be reminded of their experience of feeling appreciative and happy.
If you feel you would like to choose the colours or make suggestions on how they draw their picture, get out some paper and do a drawing for yourself. When you’ve both finished, you can discuss your drawings and how it felt to draw them.
Similarly with dance, put on some up-beat music and dance with your child. Be silly together. Connect to your own feelings of appreciation and joy and move in any way you want to with that feeling. When you dance, you model for your child what is ok, so the more fun you can have, the better. It gives your child permission to fully embody their joy.
Another exercise is to help your child notice how it feels in their body when they feel
happy or appreciative, like the tingling and the warmth in the story. Everyone experiences their feelings differently. Notice what it feels like in your body when you experience joy. Your child might describe a colour, sensation, texture, weight, sound or image to describe their felt sense of happiness or appreciation.
Spend a minute or two discussing where they feel it in their body. Ask questions to help them deepen their experience of their felt sense, such as: ‘Is it a familiar feeling?’ or ‘Has it moved or gotten bigger or smaller?’ for example. Welcome and allow whatever your child offers as a response.
Later, if your child has started to feel discontented again, remembering the sensory feeling of joy in their body can be used as a bridge to feeling happy again.