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A Walking Holiday with Kids: A Chance to Try Some Emotional Ecology

We know that health is an holistic concept. We know that we need to be mentally and spiritually and physically well to be properly well. Right? Coming from New Zealand I understand (in a very simple way) the Maori idea that we need to connect with nature to be well. People who come from mountains need to spend time with mountains, those from rivers, forests and the sea need to connect with their special places too. Our place is a part of who we are. As people from Whanganui say: ‘Ko te awa ko au, Ko au te awa’ The river is me and I am the river.

Maria Mercè Conongla and Jaume Soler are Spanish psychologists who have developed a similar concept into a school that they call Emotional Ecology. They teach the idea that we have two worlds to care for, our inner world and our environment and the two are linked.

Next week our family are going on a walking holiday, this is a chance for us to immerse our city selves in nature. it is a chance to really chat and connect and set the world to rights. It’ll be a chance for me to ask questions and start deep conversations that we don’t normally have the time or space for. Using Conongla and Soler’s book ‘Emotional Explorers’ as my springboard I’ll be using nature to start conversations about the kids’ inner environments, such as:

  • If you were a planet what three words would describe you? What do you like most about this planet? What could you improve? If you could describe the rest of our family as planets what would we be? Why?

  • Emotions are like landscapes - what landscape would joy be? Bravery? Fear? Sadness? What is your landscape like today? Is the landscape you see the same one as I see? When climbing a mountain what emotional tools will we need?

  • If you were a flower/animal/season/colour - which one would you be? Why? What conditions are essential for your habitat - your physical and emotional home?

  • Dragons on maps used to be symbols for unmapped areas and only the brave went beyond the map. Do we have any dragons inside us? What are they? What would happen if we faced the dragons? Think of some big changes in our lives - how did we manage? what if they hadn’t happened?

  • We are each a unique species, no-one like me will ever exist again. If you were a tree what would it look like? Why? How should we nurture it? If we compared the trees around us are any better than others? Or is diversity best?

Walking and exploring are situations conducive to big conversations,. These starters might work they might not - I’ll give it a try and let the kids guide the flow. To counter balance any super earnest chatting we will also be playing games, exploring, counting bugs, eating blackberries, throwing balls, singing and having regular conversations too. Hooray for summer holidays. The book Emotional Explorers comes out in October and I highly recommend it.

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