My oldest describes it as a place you create in your imagination that you can come back to whenever you want. We used the idea of creating a secret garden. They have the complete freedom to decorate their garden as they wish, it is important for them to remember and try to visualize this place as it is a wonderful place they can come back to whenever they need it. Some children- teens and adults as well!- might find this activity more accessible after physical exercise, using breathing to transition to stillness (and some might find comfort with a 'cuddling buddy', a teddy bear, favorite toy, or blanket to be next to them or on their belly as they thin about their secret garden). Additionally, some children might enjoy calming music, others might find it distracting. It really comes down to the child's preferences; it is good practice to ask them!
As they breathe slowly and close their eyes, you can ask them to think about what colors are the flowers, do they smell? What does the path look like (is it stones, grass, concrete, sand, shells...)? Are they going to their garden walking? Do they have shoes on or are barefoot? (if barefoot, how do their feet feel when touching the ground?) Maybe, they are floating on a magic carpet or flying like a dragon... Are there any trees, can they see animals (maybe butterflies, bees, unicorns...), what are these animals doing, what do they eat, are there any vegetables in the garden, would they like to have a pond with fish in it, what color are the fish (they can even come back next time to feed the fish and water their plants!), how's the weather. They can think about a bench or a swing where they can sit in their garden. You can structure this based on a story or choose a few questions for them to build their happy place.
Think about the needs and interests of the child, and choose only a few questions each time you do this activity (too much can be overwhelming for all of us; what is above is an idea of things you might bring up, not a guide to ask every single one). With my oldest, I start bringing her out when I notice she is starting to look restless (typically 3-5 minutes is great but everyone has their own internal clock). Have in mind that younger children might not be able to do this in stillness. A three-year-old, for example, might be enthusiastically telling you about their garden as they jump on the bed with their eyes wide open, and that's OK!
Thaina Cordero is the Care Coordinator at Cypress Wellness Center. She has an MS in Educational Psychology, is a trauma-informed certified yoga teacher, and is a doctoral student in a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology program at Modern Sex Therapy Institute. Thaina can help you find a therapist that best suits your health and financial needs. Reach out for questions about billing, insurance, or inquire about our services, staff, and programs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org