What do you mean you are going to play?
I get it, I totally get it. Your child is struggling. Perhaps they are feeling anxious, sad, or angry. Maybe they are not doing what you ask or fighting all. the. time. You are desperate and somehow you have ended up in my office. And here I am talking about playing with them.
I promise there is a good reason, and that reason is that play therapy is so beneficial for children!
How play therapy helps children:
Play helps children learn about their world
Play is the language of the child. Play helps children learn about their world, themselves, and how they relate to their experiences. Kids are always communicating with us (their parents/caregivers). Their negative behaviors and symptoms (that often end up with them in my office!) are just that, the child communicating a need with us. Because their brains are still developing, our kids are not able to regulate their nervous system when they experience emotions and this dysregulation results in the negative behaviors we see.
Able to build a healthy, accepting relationship with an adult
Through play with a trained play therapist, children are able to build a healthy, non-judgmental, and accepting relationship with an adult. They are able to explore and often act out their experiences. This process can actually make changes to their brains to help them learn how to manage the input they are receiving which allows them to learn skills to manage their big feelings!
Opportunity to practice regulation
Play therapy gives children the opportunity to explore their feelings, try new things, and problem-solve in an environment where they are able to practice regulation. Think about how your child has learned to do different tasks such as dressing themselves, bathing, or eating. Many of those tasks have been learned by observing others! During a play therapy session, the child is able to experience an adult naming their own emotions, modeling regulation, and solving problems. By the child observing these modeled behaviors, they are able to learn skills to better manage their own experiences. They also learn tools they can implement to help when feelings get big!
Many of the children I have worked with have learned how to find their voice or calm themselves when angry or feeling excitement through a game of Monopoly, Roblox or Jenga!
If your child is struggling or you are feeling desperate for help, we want you to know that hope starts here. Contact Family Counseling Service to speak to one of our trained child therapists and get more information about play therapy!
Related blog post: 5 Tips for Parents to Support Your Child’s Mental Health