Children Like to Play, but what is In Play Therapy?
When I think of counseling for kids, I usually picture a child sitting in a room with an adult interrogating them about their feelings. That isn’t a pretty picture for anyone, let alone a child.
Thankfully, children’s therapy has come a long way in recent years. Therapists have a deeper understanding of the struggles children face now more than ever, especially with play therapy. Counselors have been able to make incredible progress with kids who are having difficulties, and are able to offer services without making it feel like a backroom interrogation scene like in the movies.
These difficulties can include things like:
- Behavioral Issues
- Social Difficulties
- Academic Struggle
- Family Relationships
I feel like every parent has experienced at least one of these difficulties with their little one, maybe more and maybe even at the same time. Whether it be traumatic loss, or kids watching their parents separate, or biting at school, play therapy introduces coping skills for the tough topics.
These skills, when introduced at an early age, can have a positive influence on kids well into their adult lives. As a single dad, making sure Elle has everything she needs to thrive is my top priority.
What is like for Children to take part in Play Therapy?
So, what does play therapy look like for kiddos? There are several play therapy techniques that counselors will use to create a safe space that kids can feel comfortable in. Some therapists may include drawing or painting and some include directive or non-directive play.
Depending on which difficulty your mini-human needs to work through, different play will be used. There is no reason your child shouldn’t have an enjoyable experience while opening up. Playing with bubbles, balls, balloons, blocks, and stuffies are typical tools used in play therapy.
Honestly, play therapy sounds like a blast. I wouldn’t mind a therapist that let me color or play with legos while we talked. Maybe we could play Animal Crossing too? Just a suggestion.
How Do I Prepare (and what are the Benefits) for my Child in Play Therapy?
Make sure your child is aware of what is to come. Sending your kid into therapy blind is the absolute worst thing you can do, so giving your kiddo a heads up will give both the therapist and child a better chance at success.
Framing therapy as an exciting playroom with special toys is an excellent way to introduce your child into therapy. Naming the therapist as an adult they can trust is also important as well as reassuring them you will be right outside. Letting them know they can stop the session at any time will also give your child a sense of comfort.
When given the option to play with cool new toys, most children will choose the toys. I would choose games and puzzles over laying on a couch any day of the week, so why expect kids to be any different? It just makes sense to engage in an active way when working with active imaginations.
If your child is still feeling anxious without you there, the therapist may be open to allowing the grown-ups to join in until the child feels they are in a safe space.
Counseling for Kids: Sometimes It’s Nice to Be Able to Ask for Help
The benefits of play therapy are well worth stepping over the hurdle of stigma and judgment, especially to see your child thrive. I know the fear of judgment, whether it be from your own parents, from other parents, and even teachers sometimes…but that doesn’t mean that therapy isn’t a wonderful tool. Be confident in your parenting, even if it feels like imposter syndrome.
Using help that is available is not something to be ashamed of. Teaching our kids to ask for help is good. Teaching them to use tools they learned to manage their emotions is good. Teaching family and peers that therapy is normal and useful is good.
Being a parent is a tough job. Asking for professional help is never a downfall. You’re doing great!
Please note: I am not a child psychologist, but this information is here to share with my experiences or from my conversations with other Edmonton parents who have been able to share their experiences. I do suggest consulting professional within the field for specific solutions which may be of benefit to you and your family.