ESPECIALLY FOR PARENTS

Playing is a timeless and universal impulse enjoyed by children and the child within. Play keeps

us connected to our deepest truths. Children have always been attracted to play with the

elements. Living closer to the source of all things, closer to the unconscious, they remain

naturally fond of earth and water. In the play therapy room, children realize they can use the

materials: sand, water, clay, toys and paint to make their inner images come alive.

By looking at what they have created, they can begin to look at themselves.

This kind of play in a safe and therapeutic space is very healing. The child is allowed to say

whatever she thinks, to do almost whatever he wants and to be whoever he or she wants to be.

Yet there are basic rules to protect the child and thus a feeling of safety is created along with

a sense of freedom. The freedom to choose activities and to talk are always the child's; the

child sets the pace. This empowers children and once they are feeling more powerful, they are

usually comfortable talking about more difficult subjects.

The child is accepted exactly as he is and is not judged in any way. All feelings are okay.

The therapist's job is to listen and observe the child's play, reflecting feelings in a way the child

can use to better understand herself. Children possess an inborn ability to heal themselves.

Just as their physical "owies" heal, so upsetting or traumatic events will heal. But wounds need

the right conditions: to be kept clean, to have air, and sometimes helpful medicine. So

emotional wounds need certain conditions to heal: a loving and supportive family, the feeling of

being heard and seen and the externalization of painful feelings and images. This is where the

parent's work comes in. Their job is to create a healthy and safe home environment for deep

and thorough healing. 

Patience is required when working with children on deep emotional change. 
The natural pace

of the child is much slower than the adult's. This process can be likened to a

journey and often the path is not straight, but bumpy and filled with detours. It is critical that

children maintain a consistent pattern of appointments and that appointments which must be

missed are discussed ahead of time. To me, each child is a gift. Thank you for sharing your

child with me.

Deepening the Relationship

Many times the ordinary problems of childhood can be overcome by parents with guidance

from a child psychotherapist, teacher or friend. One of the most important foundations in the life

of a child is a warm, emotionally close relationship with one or hopefully both parents. This is

the bedrock of all future growth and development. In our current stressful lives, the necessity

for mothers and fathers to work outside the home and the pace of our lives does not leave

much time for playing with our children. Yet, this is the very best way to connect to your child,

no matter how old your child is.

PLAYING WITH YOUR CHILD

I recommend that parents spend at least 15 minutes per day on the floor or outside playing with

their child. This play can take many forms from playing a board game, to playing with dolls to

playing ball. The most important aspect of this play will be the freedom it affords, the emphasis

on fun and not on following rules or producing something and the genuine pleasure that stems

from interactive, reciprocal enjoyment of one another. There are excellent books about this at

your local library or book store. If you think you have forgotten how to play just ask your child

“what do you want to play today?” and they will most likely have an answer. Being with your

child during play, attending to your child’s thoughts and feelings as you enjoy each other’s

company strengthens  the bond between you. I maintain that if the bond between you is warm

and strong, most discipline works, the child experiences higher self-esteem and the child is

more apt to succeed in school.

Here are some suggestions if you are feeling stumped:

· With your baby, play singing, rhythm and touching games. Make strong eye contact. For more

ideas read Games Babies Play by Vicki Lansky.

· With your toddler, any movement game on the floor is generally enjoyed. For example, rolling a

 ball back and forth, hide and seek, find the hidden object, etc. For more ideas read

 Games to Play with Toddlers by Jackie Silberg.

· Your pre-schooler is your best playmate yet since imaginative play peaks during these years.

You can pretend just about anything and your 3 or 4 year old will go along. Playing store,

house, fire engine, police or dress-up helps your child prepare for the future and builds up the

emotional connection between parent and child. Read Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen.

· With school-aged children, the play may turn to skill building whether it be checkers, baseball

or jump rope. This kind of play builds self-confidence and promotes muscular development as

well as offers shared times of happiness and even begins to teach lessons about losing.

· If you have a special situation, contact me for further assistance about how to play with your

child at carlasharp@hawaii.rr.com

TURN OFF THE TV AND TUNE INTO YOUR CHILD

The average child in the United States spends 1680 minutes per week watching television. 

While the number of minutes a parent spends in meaningful conversation with their child per

week is 3.5!  (www.csun.edu/the source book for teaching science/Norman Herr, PhD.) 

Hours spent watching television are hours in which the child is not using her imagination,

not reading a book and not playing outside.  I urge each parent to turn off the television 

and tune in to your child.  Take your child for a walk, read a story, play on the floor with 

dinosaurs or make a tent in the living room.  This is special time in which you give your

child undivided attention.  Your relationship will grow and deepen from these special play times.

Play is the vital ingredient in the growth and development of the young brain.  Of course,

some television programming is educational but keep it to one hour per day for the young

child.  Just like sugar, alittle bit is fun, but a steady diet is harmful.

SPEAKING OF SUGAR...................

Your child can only grow if supplied with the right kind of fuel.  Food, real food, is the best fuel

for the young brain, developing bones and muscles and habits that will last a lifetime.  Avoid

fast food outlets and carry healthy snacks in your car instead.  Real food comes from the earth,

from trees and from the farm; not from a box or a package.  These foods in boxes are called

"processed foods" because they were made in a factory.  Many chemicals are added to

processed food to make them last along time.  Serve your children only fresh, whole foods

and they will blossom.  Check out www.keepkidshealthy.com