The biggest question we always get when parents start their children on Play Therapy is "How can I help my child get the most out of their sessions (therapy) ?" As you would know, you only have 10 or so minutes before and after each therapy session until your scheduled review sessions.
We've rounded up five ways you can engage with your child throughout their therapy journey to help them process the feelings and emotions they may be going through.
1. On the way to therapy
Children and young people are very spontaneous by nature and often they do not plan ahead for play therapy sessions. They live in the moment and will address issues THEY want to explore on their own when they are ready. We encourage parents to not put any pressure on them into talking about what they might want (or not want) to discuss in their session. We suggest that you use this time and go over their usual daily activities.
2. On the way back from therapy
We don't want children and youth in therapy to think they have to report a "good" session to their parents. Your child is healing and some sessions can be very emotionally exhausting. Play Therapy is a safe place for your child or teenager to explore feelings without any expectations. We tell parents that they may ask a few questions, in general, but if they don’t feel like sharing anything to just leave it at that. We also tell parents to let their child or teenager know that you are always here to listen, whenever they may be ready to talk.
3. At Home
Since at home is where you’ll spend the most amount of time with your child, it is also where you’ll want to take some time to help your child or teenager manage their feelings. A lot of the times children and youth don't have the self-awareness to know when they are feeling worried or anxious. One of the best ways you can help them is by simply naming the emotion they are feeling so that you can help support them through their feelings.
Using these new coping skills takes practice. Your child’s brain is in the process of creating new neural pathways and learning to challenge their old way of thinking. Anxiety can be pretty convincing and learning to overcome it, takes a lot of practice. The more opportunities your child or teenager has to practice, the easier it will get.
4. At School
Your child or teenager spends most of the day at school. We encourage parents to share your child’s coping strategies with their teachers. It is important to keep the lines of communication open between your child's teachers and your child. When you do this, you respect your child's privacy and allow your child to take ownership in managing their anxiety. Now this may sound like it is giving your child or teenager the green light to manipulate the situation but we think otherwise.
In Play therapy, we work towards the goal of your child or teenager using strategies THEY think work best for them. A key ingredient in the play therapy process, which you will read repeatedly is to let your child be the problem solver. Set up a meeting between yourself, your child or teenager, and their teacher to explain how best to support your child/teenager’s coping strategies will provide support and consistency to your child/teenager’s progress.
5. In general
We understand that parents are often anxious to know how their child is doing after every session and want to know that they are getting the best treatment possible. Having your child recognize and identify their big feelings, triggers and then being able to use their coping strategies takes time and most importantly a lot of practice. Their brains are still developing and often it gets worse before it gets better.
Remember to speak to your child/teenager's therapist at their review sessions and raise any concerns you may have.
If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation today or take our quiz!