Talking about thoughts and feelings is intimidating, even with a trusted adult. So when building a relationship with a child, it’s important to let them set the pace. You can prompt conversation through an activity, but stay attuned to the child’s comfort level with the conversation. They should lead the way.
The Three Houses Tool, developed by Nicki Weld and Sonja Parker, is an interactive activity to aid discussion with youth of all ages. It’s helpful in gathering information because it allows a child to explore complicated areas of their life by breaking their thoughts, feelings, and experiences into three categories. These categories are visualized as the three houses below:
- House of Good Things
What is good in your life right now? Which people, or things, make you happy? Who do you like spending time with, and why?
- House of Worries
What are you worried about? Is anything going on that doesn’t make you feel so good? What makes you feel sad or scared?
- House of Dreams
What are your hopes for the future? Are there important things you want to have happening in your life? If all of the worries were gone, what would you want your life to look like?
The child may write, color, or just scribble. It doesn’t matter! Let their thoughts flow and ask clarifying questions like “can you explain?” or “tell me more.”
We love this tool for many reasons. The structure lets the child control the flow of information and is open-ended, allowing for follow-up questions. It identifies strengths in a home, while also processing fears and vulnerabilities. Most of all, our favorite component of the Three Houses Tool is that it touches on the future and leaves space for hope!