Updated: Oct 3
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) ?"
Play therapy for a child works best when parents and the play therapist work well together. Giving your child's play therapist as much information as you can about your child should be your first step in doing this. Why did you seek assistance? When did their problems begin? Were there any significant life changes for your child? What objectives do you have for your child?
Your child's play therapist requires more information than they will get in their weekly therapy session. As a result, it is beneficial for parents to observe their child's behavior and report it to the play therapist. As a parent, you will almost certainly be asked to assist your child in practicing skills learned at play therapy at home.
Although your child's play therapist is an expert, you are the expert on your child. Don't be afraid to express any concerns. And don't be afraid to seek assistance if you're unsure how to proceed.
How to support your child in therapy?
1. On the way to therapy
Children are 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 in play 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. Remember that Play Therapy is a safe place for your child to explore feelings without expectations. We tell parents that they may ask their child a few questions, in general, but if they don’t feel like sharing anything just leave it at that. We also tell parents to let their children 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 manage their feelings. A lot of the time children 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 feel 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 has to practice, the easier it will get.
4. At School
Your child spends most of the day at school. We encourage parents to share their 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 own challenges.
In Play therapy, we work towards the goal of your child 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. Setting up a meeting between yourself, your child, and their teacher to explain how best to support your child's coping strategies will provide support and consistency to your child's progress.
5. In general
We understand that parents are often anxious to know how their child is doing after every play therapy session and want to know that they are getting the best treatment possible. Having your child recognize and identify their big feelings, and 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.
Keep in mind that you can always speak to your child's play therapist at their review sessions and raise any concerns you may have.
Do you think your Teen or Child could benefit from therapy? Speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your Teen or Child could benefit from play therapy, Click here to get in touch today, or if you want to know if Play Therapy could be suitable for your Teen or Child, click here to take our quiz!