Authors Rose Offner and Sheri Brisson Answer Your Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you write Digging Deep?
We wrote Digging Deep to help kids through their journey with illness and to make that journey a little easier. We wanted to give kids a tool that would allow them to deal with the reality of what was happening to them. We know these special kids have so many feelings to share, and wanted to make the process of expressing those thoughts and feelings non-threatening and even fun.
We both know that the understanding gained through introspection and writing in a journal gives kids the clarity they need to work through their illnesses. Our book provides a safe place for young people to express their deepest feelings, as well as to celebrate who they are.
Our ultimate goal is for children with serious health challenges to feel more supported emotionally. Through the process of writing down their feelings and sharing what they’ve written, children learn to communicate their needs more directly to their families, doctors, and others wanting to support them, making it easier for everyone to know how to help.
What does the title mean?
Digging Deep is a simple way to describe the process of introspection: searching inside oneself to discover the answers that lie within. By allowing children and teens to express their feelings and encouraging them to dig deep for answers, kids indeed learn they are incredibly strong and resilient.
Who is this book for?
Digging Deep is for children and teens who are facing any health challenge, whether it’s a chronic condition, life-threatening illness, or a disability from birth. It is for young people who are hospitalized, in outpatient treatment, disabled, attending special medical camps, receiving palliative care, in remission, undergoing physical rehabilitation, on dialysis, and the list goes on.
At first we imagined Digging Deep for children approximately ages ten to eighteen, but we have found much younger children using it with the help of a caring adult, as well as young adults in their twenties adapting the questions to meet their needs. Even if the immediate health crisis has been resolved, these young people may not have had an opportunity to work through their feelings about the impact of illness in their lives, and Digging Deep serves as a tool for doing that.
How did you come up with the questions?
Each of the exercises was developed from many years of experience working directly with children with serious illness. The exercises address the common feelings and issues kids with serious or long-term health challenges face. Kids and teens shared their invaluable insights with us, giving an authenticity to the book that kids readily identify with.
Each question is designed to promote emotional growth and understanding. For example, one exercise in the book called “Throwing Out the Trash” is about letting go of negative thoughts and feelings, an action that helps us move on. “Upside Down World” addresses that feeling of being “lost in space,” when all we have known to be true or part of our identity is turned upside down. It helps us acknowledge what has been lost so we can re-engage and move forward. “Tricks Up My Sleeve” is about evolution and giving back—to be far enough past an experience that we can share our wisdom to help someone else with a similar experience.
How is this book different from other books for sick kids?
Digging Deep is not a storybook, nor an activity, or distraction book. Our book invites the reader to become an active participant in creating his or her own story from his or her personal experience. Digging Deep is visually beautiful and inviting—certainly not a typical “therapist’s guide.” It is not only a beautiful book, but a powerful tool for developing lifelong skills of introspection and expressive writing.
How can I best use this book with my child?
To begin, encourage your child to flip through the book and find a piece of art or an exercise that inspires him to start writing. Be sure to let him know there is no right or wrong answer, but rather only his answer.
You may offer to write for your child as she tells her story. Kids often love the idea that a parent or other caring adult can be their scribe. The process of writing together is very intimate and can be an opportunity for closeness that you both may be craving.
Invite your child to share what she has written, but please give her the permission to keep her journal private until she feels ready to share. Please respect your child’s wishes if she chooses to keep her journal private.
Listen with an open heart so your child’s feelings are validated and she feels heard. Even if it is uncomfortable to listen to her sadness, confusion, or pain, ultimately it will help you better understand her so you can respond in the most meaningful and caring way.
Have Digging Deep available for your child for when he feels like writing, but allow him to set the pace. Exploring feelings can be very tough, and your child will have his own rhythm. Pack Digging Deep for the next hospital stay, or bring it along for a clinic or outpatient appointment. Often there is waiting time that could be used to write in the journal, which can be a comforting and fun activity as they wait.
Encourage creativity by supplying your child with glitter markers, colored thin Sharpie markers, or stickers to personalize their books. Your child can also make pockets and decorate envelopes for certain exercises, an activity kids usually enjoy even if they don’t feel like writing.
You can also help your child adapt the questions to his specific needs. There are extra questions in the back of the book that can be cut out to replace exercises that don’t apply to your child. Encourage your child to create his own art or borders and even make up questions to create a custom journal using Digging Deep for inspiration and ideas.
How can using this journal help me talk to my child?
More often than not, kids do want to talk about their situation and their feelings, but do not know how to start. We’ve found that kids want to share what they have written, especially with a parent, even if they haven’t been able to openly share their emotions before. By sharing their journal entries, kids learn that it is okay to talk about their concerns and feelings. Through regular journaling, kids develop language for expressing themselves, which helps them communicate their needs. In fact, the exercises in Digging Deep can jump start conversations which otherwise may not happen. Strengthening communication between kids and their families, medical team, and entire support network is the ultimate goal of Digging Deep.
What do I do if I am worried about something my child has written?
You know your child very well and are the best judge as to when to ask for help or advice. Please never feel embarrassed or hesitant about reaching out to a caring professional if you ever feel concerned about something your child has written or said. More often than not, you will be reassured that your concerns and the feelings expressed by your child are normal.
I am afraid that by using this book my child or I will become more worried or sad, is that true?
The truth is, kids only go as deep as they feel comfortable. They are in control of choosing what exercise to work on, and will choose the ones they feel comfortable with and are ready to explore. Some of the exercises have been designed to help identify areas where your child may need extra help or where misunderstandings need to be clarified. This will actually work to reduce your child’s fears and concerns.
Expressing sadness is not depression; it literally is just a release of feelings, and following the release, your child may feel relieved. Often it is the adults who are afraid of tears, not the child, because for them, tears are so natural. It is important to let your child know that tears are not a sign of weakness, but vulnerability is truly a sign of strength. If your child’s tears make you cry too, your child may feel comforted in crying together, especially if you let him or her know that your tears are normal and that you are okay.
Do you have a book like this for parents, siblings or kids whose parents are sick?
One common thing we hear from family members is, “Hey, I need a book like this for me.” Yes, the power of self-inquiry is an important process for everyone. We do not as yet have family companion books available, but in the near term we will offer questions and writing prompts for family members on our website. Until then, you can enjoy coming up with your own questions to answer, or perhaps have a trusted friend pose questions you can answer. You can even get creative and make your own borders or backgrounds for exercises, or find borders at your local craft or stationery store, to make the process of creating your own journal fun.
How can I get this book for my hospital or organization?
In what settings might you recommend the use of Digging Deep?
Digging Deep can be used by many different professionals in a hospital setting. Areas where we have seen Digging Deep used include: child life, social work, palliative care, patient advocacy, chaplaincy, hospital school, outpatient clinics, and various support groups and at bedside.
Outside of the hospital, we have seen Digging Deep used by community nonprofits and associations serving children’s health needs, in children’s medical camps, in private practices and support groups, and of course, at home with Mom, Dad, or other caring adults in the child’s life.
What tips do you have for professionals about how they can use this book?
Each setting where Digging Deep can be used is likely to have its own “tricks of the trade,” so to speak. But in general, here are a few suggestions that can apply to any setting:
• Have the child flip through the book and find a writing prompt or even a piece of art that catches his or her attention. This is likely a good exercise to start. Digging Deep works best if you don’t just start in the beginning and work through to the end.
• If the child doesn’t feel like writing, offer to write for them. Being a scribe for the child often strengthens the bond between the two of you. You can also use Digging Deep in a group setting, pairing young people up where one is the storyteller and one is the scribe. It is very powerful to have one’s story witnessed in this way.
• Know that all the questions can be altered to fit the needs of the individual journal writer. You can modify the exercises to adapt to the needs and age of the child. You can cross out the parts of the exercise which don’t apply, or even cut a question out of the back of the book and glue it over a question that the child or teen doesn’t want to answer. Digging Deep is their book, so the more it can be personalized, the better.
• Creating one’s own pockets and envelopes is a fun way to engage the user. Some of the exercises include a place to decorate and glue on pockets or envelopes, making journaling a more unique and interesting activity.
What gives you the authority to write a book like this?
Rose has written several other successful journal writing titles in a similar style, including Journal to the Soul (Gibbs Smith, 1997), Journal to the Soul for Teenagers (Random House, 1999), and Journal to Intimacy (Random House, 1990). Rose created this comfortable and inviting style of journal writing, and has witnessed the transformative power of journal writing with many different populations. She is dedicated to taking children and adults on creative inner journeys to discover their story through writing, art, and sharing.
As a cancer survivor herself, Sheri has personally experienced the importance of self-inquiry as part of her own journey through illness. Even before she was seriously ill herself, Sheri earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University. Sheri also spent years working as a playroom and bedside volunteer at Stanford Children’s and Packard Hospitals and at Ronald McDonald House in New York. Then, after going through her own process of healing, she returned to graduate school to receive a master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in health. She has spent much of the last twenty years leading support groups for kids and families addressing the health challenges they face.
Can my child share what he or she has written with you?
We would love to hear from you! Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with the writing or artwork and to receive the necessary release forms if you are willing to share the work with others.
How do you expect to get this book into the hands of kids who need it?
As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Resonance House strives to make Digging Deep available to all children who need it. We need partners and donors to help us achieve this.
If you are a parent wanting a complimentary book for your child, please contact email@example.com or call (800) 488-3202.
If you are a hospital or organization wanting to partner with Resonance House and Digging Deep, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 488-3202.