Back to Laney, What is a Mandala? Working on the Lewis Carroll proposition that a word means what you want it to mean, I use the word to mean a circle that reflects emotions.

In a jotter, each page should have an empty circle. Each person who is doing this, and in an ideal world, this will include parents and siblings, sits down together around the table. Each person chooses colours to reflect various emotions: happy, sad, angry, fed-up, excited etc. And they all sit down together before teatime and fill in an empty circle, each of them filling it in to show what sort of day they had. Mum might choose Blue to show Happy and could fill in a third as Blue while explaining that she had a happy day because she met up with Granny and they had coffee. Or perhaps some Yellow [Mum’s choice of colour for Sad] because she had heard that the car needed mending. That way, the children could be learning what makes someone happy, sad, angry etc and you might hear Laney say that she is colouring a lot of the day in green [her choice for angry] because the teacher told her friend off and it wasn’t fair. Or Pink [her choice for happy] because she had been told ‘well done’ for her writing, and her friend had shared her sweets, or it was hot dogs for lunch. The Mum looks at what the child is doing and would say something like ‘that’s a lot of pink, it looks like you had a good day?’ or ‘my goodness, all that Green, what happened?’ so that Laney [and all the others involved] get to tell what actually happened and how it made them feel. Sometimes this is a personal emotion, but sometimes it will reflect something else like being cross because they couldn’t have P.E. because another class was using the Gym.

This is a super exercise for many reasons. It allows for everyone to sit down together to do something that will not be ‘judged’. It allows everyone to talk about feelings in an unemotional way – these are feelings that aren’t expressed while you are feeling mad or very unhappy. It allows the adults to explain how they feel about things and that sometimes things make them very sad or angry too and also to tell how they deal with them. So although dad was furious when someone scratched his car, he didn’t go and beat up the driver….. It allows the whole family to share what is going on.

Best of all, perhaps, it allows you to see that school is more than the very last experience that meant your child came home in tears. This is really important. So often, when you meet your child after school and see that they are unhappy, you ask Why. The child tells you of the cause of this unhappiness and as a parent you go into Support Mode. It is too easy to forget that the child has had a long day made up of several parts. By doing the Mandala exercise, you can have a much more realistic idea of what school is like. And if it is genuinely awful, you have a very good justification for doing something about it. If you choose to do this, just do it for maybe 6 weeks and then have a break. Save the jotters though – it makes a lovely and accurate diary of what was happening at that time.