The Old Oak Tree of Clogrenanne Wood

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There is a long history of telling a story to help a child develop. Therapeutic stories have been used by therapists for many years to help children help themselves. The stories rely on metaphor, and like all aspects of play therapy, and indeed other therapies, they work on the principle of helping the child to help themselves.

Margot Sunderland, the wonderful therapist and author of "What Every Parent Needs to Know", has written many. However some therapists feel Sunderland's stories underplay the metaphor and hammer home the message too explicitly, which might be a bit challenging for some children, and might indeed build up resistance.

I needed to write a story for a child who was bereaved. Sunderland's advice to write a story where the main character was grappling with a similar issue intuitively felt disrespectful comparing a child's bereavement someone else's. Gordon's advice to identify a connecting strategy between the child and the desired outcome felt even more crass: What strategy was going to bring the child's father back?

To prove the truth of the play therapy approach, that children themselves have the solution, my problem was answered by a child. A friend told me that her 6 year old son had played "The ancient tree has fallen down" the day his grandfather died. This was the inspiration for "The Old Oak Tree of Clogrennane Wood". The bereaved child loved the story, and went back and told her class teacher I had read her a lovely story.