What is Play Therapy?
Play is the natural way children learn. The natural communication method in children is play and activity – toys are used as words and play is their language. Children can use toys and art to express things that they may otherwise feel uncomfortable discussing. Therefore, It is essential for children to “play out” their feelings and emotions to better understand them. In conclusion, play therapy is a way of assisting children to learn new emotional, behavioural, and cognitive skills quickly using their individual learning style.
The Positives of Play Therapy
Play therapy can be a very positive experience for both children and parents. It can be used for a number of concerns from behavioural issues, school problems, traumatic events and more.
Play therapy may not fix a specific issue that a child is having, however, it gives a child the tools for how to handle different situations. It is used to show kids that their feelings and emotions are normal and that is okay to express themselves. One of the main uses for play therapy is to teach kids, self regulation. Self Regulation is the ability to control and manage emotions during any situation. Learning proper self regulation is very helpful in children because it sets them up to be able to understand when it is appropriate to express emotions and when it is not. Here are some other things that children may learn/gain from play therapy:
- Ability to process emotions
- Express their feelings responsibly
- Develop more independence
- Improve social skills
- Accept themselves
- Learn to be responsible for their choices
Parents Role in Play Therapy
Parents play an important role in their Childs therapy even if they are not involved in the session. If parents are bringing their child to therapy with a negative attitude, chances are the kids will also see it as a negative experience. If the child is very anxious about coming to therapy, parents should reassure their child that it is a safe and comfortable environment to talk about their feelings.
Play Therapy is typically for children aged 3-11, at this age it is hard to guarantee progress. The only way progress can be made is when both, children and parents are engaged in the sessions. Play therapy does not stop in the therapy room. The play therapists will supply the children and parents with tools and strategies to use at home, school, during sessions and anywhere else they are needed. If parents are not enforcing these tools and strategies then it will be likely that the child does not make progress in the therapeutic process.
It is also important that parents have a relationship with the therapist in order to discuss any issues the child has had since the last visit or other concerns they are having that the child may not want to bring up on their own.
Play Therapy and Divorce
All children handle divorce and separation differently. Some children may not be very affected by it but others can show changes in their mood and behaviour. In these cases play therapy may help a child to understand and process the emotions that they are feeling. Play therapy can help children learn tools and strategies to help with their negative feelings surrounding divorce.
In cases that are dealing with divorce, it is important that parents know their boundaries. Play Therapy is not a way to get solve issues with their ex-partners.
Example: If a divorced parent is bringing a child in for play therapy but the parents issues are things like “what my ex does with my son/daughter on their weekend” or “my ex has a new partner and did not consult me.” These issues would be better dealt with in a coparenting session, not their child’s play therapy appointment. Divorce can be very difficult when there are children involved but it is important to not include your child in the ‘adult’ aspect of the situation.
Co-parenting is an important part of play therapy when divorce is involved. Child therapy typically works more efficiently if both parents are on board and willing to help their child. The key to success in play therapy is practicing the strategies that are given. This works better when the strategies given are used at both parents homes.