When kids feel overwhelmed, they may respond with aggressive behavior, bed-wetting, academic problems, separation anxiety. Here’s how play therapy can help.
Watching children play can be an effective way to gauge their thoughts and emotions. If a child has experienced a traumatic event – whether it’s a divorce, family death, or school shooting – play therapy could open lines of communication and awareness.
Finding effective therapies for children is difficult because they may not be comfortable talking about their experiences, emotions, or memories with adults. Even if kids can’t express themselves verbally, they still have strong emotions, feelings, and opinions about the events in their lives.
Here’s what new research in child psychology reveals about play therapy.
Case Western Reserve University psychologist Sandra Russ studies how play affects child development and child psychotherapy. She is one of the first psychologists to research the link between emotions in play therapy and emotions in memories.
Negative emotions in play are stronger than positive ones, and the emotions in play therapy are related to the emotions in memories. Russ believes that play can help kids deal with daily emotions as well as traumatic events. Further, children’s emotions in play therapy are better expressed and integrated with other memories.
Russ also found that emotions in play are related to creative thinking. That is, the more emotional the play, the more creative the thought processes.
To find an effective play therapist or child psychologist, consult your family doctor or a trusted friend. Many great therapists are listed in the Yellow Pages or online; make sure you feel comfortable with the child psychologist or counselor before you sign on for play therapy sessions.
These suggestions may help initiate good discussions and help build relationships between kids and parents.