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The Art of Parenting

Can a collage show your kids how much you care?

Janice Croze

The parenting-class instructor pulled out three large boxes of magazine clippings and a stack of construction paper and placed them on the table.

“Tonight we are going to have some fun doing an art project, just like something your kids would do at school. Using the magazine clippings, you are going to make a collage that represents your child…”

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The woman sitting next to me enthusiastically started grabbing pictures. I picked up piece after piece and discarded each one.

How am I going to do this?! I thought to myself. My perfectionist tendencies prickled as I rummaged through the pile.

My husband quickly found a couple of good pictures for his collage. I was about to be officially discouraged about creating a great collage of my son, Jackson, when I found a picture of a boy lovingly playing with his toddler sister. It was perfect.

On a mission now, I searched for photos that reflected Jackson’s love for family and relationships. I found an image of a boy with his father, of a mother with her son resting his head on her lap and of a young boy kissing his mother’s pregnant belly.

A picture of a laughing infant reminded me of Jackson’s happy baby days and a picture of a suffering child in Africa reflected his compassion and the child he sponsored.

I also included images of two leopard cubs fighting, a polar bear rearing up to attack and a boy crying. Jackson is an intense child, with an easily wounded heart.

As I finished gluing the clippings to my blue construction paper, I smiled. I would never have thought to make a collage like this on my own. But it felt great to put on paper how I saw my son.

When we got home, Jackson was still up. I crawled into bed with him and showed him what his dad and I had made at our class.

Jackson was thrilled! Not only did he think it was fun that we had done a “school project,” but he loved guessing which one of us had made which picture. (He knew immediately.)

Our collages showed Jackson that his mom and dad spend time trying to understand his emotions, and that we recognize him as the unique gift from God that he is.

But I think what Jackson loved most about the collages was seeing, through the pictures we had chosen, what we think about him.

I am constantly telling Jackson how much I love him and giving him praise. But with the collage, he had a chance to “see” himself through my eyes, reinforcing my positive affirmations with something he could reach out and touch.

As our children grow older, they become more complex, more challenging to raise and sometimes even harder to love.

You may not naturally go for an arts-and-crafts project to express how you see your child. But for me it was a fantastic exercise, both as a way to process my understanding of my son and to share those insights with him.

With a handful of torn-up magazine pages, I was able to show Jackson that I am here and paying attention, and how much good I see in him.

It is hard to know if our kids are hearing these important messages in the busyness of day-to-day life.

So if you want a way to help check in with your kids, try reaching for a glue stick and some old magazines.

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