COUNSELOR'S TOOLBOX: Bag Of Rocks
A Tool to Address Stuffed Problems and Feelings
(Ages 7 and up)
This experiential exercise helps children to kinesthetically understand the consequences of holding problems and feelings inside. In a fun way, it also introduces them to the recovery process of identifying problems and expressing feelings. Youngsters actually experience freedom by initiating this process for themselves.
Description: With the children sitting in a circle, the group facilitator places a tote bag in the middle. Unbeknownst to the kids the bag is full of brightly colored rocks, each with a problem (such as addiction, fighting, abuse, and secrets) or a feeling (such as anger, scared, hurt, shame, guilty, and sad) painted on it. The facilitator describes how everyone who comes to a recovery center has been carrying around such a bag inside. One by one youngsters pick up the bag and attempt to walk around the room carrying it. The facilitator asks such questions as, “How does it feel carrying all this stuff?”, “When you carry such a heavy load what are you always thinking about?”, and “Can you be free to be a kid and laugh and play when you’ve always got that bag with you?”
After a brief discussion, the bag is returned to the middle of the circle and the facilitator opens it up and explores its contents. One by one the children reach into the bag, take out a rock, and read the problem or feeling on it. When the addiction rock comes out the facilitator asks how many kids have addiction problems in their families. Many hands are raised. The facilitator acknowledges the children and states, “We’ll learn lots about addiction this week, especially that it’s not the kids’ fault.” When a feeling rock gets pulled out the facilitator asks how many children have felt this way, and kids have a chance to share feelings. Before long the bag is empty and everyone has the chance to carry it around again. All are amazed at how much lighter the bag is because they talked about their problems and feelings.
Example: Jordan, age 7, could barely lift the full bag off the floor and had to drag it across the room. He especially enjoyed how much lighter it felt after the sharing session. At the end of the discussion he uttered, “I want to get rid of some rocks about Mom’s divorce. I feel sad and scared.”
Affirmations: “I can share my problems and feelings with people who care.” “All my feelings are okay.”
Comments: This is an excellent introductory activity to get the group rolling.
As youngsters share problems and express feelings during the week, celebrate their progress by acknowledging “You let go of a couple more rocks today. Hooray!”
-10-12 rocks, each painted with an individual feeling or problem
The Stuffed Problems and Feelings Game (Bag of Rocks) can be found in the book, “Discovery: Finding the Buried Treasure,” by Jerry Moe. Published by ImaginWorks, 1992.