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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.