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Shawn: Chill & Spill

Shawn began to look upon others not as a source of conflict, but as nurturers of his growth, safety and comfort.

Dear Art with Heart,

Shawn was 12 when he came to live with us at the residential group home. He was placed with us because his parents needed help in dealing with his oppositional and defiant behaviors which caused a huge strain on their family relationships.

As I worked through the Chill & Spill book with him, he had his “A-HA” moment when we did the “Fly Away” activity together. This activity asks you to imagine yourself as a seed that a bird takes and puts somewhere safe. It asks you questions like “What kind of plant do you become? Who discovers and tends to you?” etc.

He drew himself as a tree taking root and starting to grow. He included a small person holding a watering can, pouring water on the roots. Shawn added other things that strengthened the tree, like the sun and a rain cloud.

He was then asked to explore who in his life provided him nourishment like that. He paused and looked perplexed at first. He had been in daily conflict with his family prior to coming to the Boy’s Ranch and this question made him stop and think.

Shawn looked at his picture for a moment and studied the symbols of nature then slowly began to write. He identified his parents, sister and friends as people he could turn to when he was upset – people who loved him.

This was a shift for Shawn to look upon others not as a source of conflict, but as nurturers of his growth, safety and comfort. Becoming aware of his support group was a very important step for him, one that gave him the courage to make an immediate change.

During a recent home visit, Shawn’s social worker got a phone call from his mother who shared this story: She and Shawn were sitting in the living room together. She noticed that he was unusually calm and relaxed. Out of the blue, he said, “I love you, Mom” and proceeded to sit on her lap and give her a hug. This wasn’t the angry, defiant and detached child she’d been struggling with. For the first time in years, she felt hopeful for his future.

Thank you for all you do to help kids like Shawn. It made all the difference in the world.


Sue R., Morning Star Boy’s Ranch, Spokane, WA

NOTE: To protect the child’s identity\, the image does not necessarily match the story and names may or may not have been changed.