Children are not just like us only smaller! They are unique. One size fits all does not apply to therapy. Traditional talk therapy does not benefit a child in the same way it would benefit an adult. For children, play is their language and toys are their words. It's almost as if adults and children speak different languages. So, in order to communicate with children, we must play with them.
Play Therapy is the most appropriate intervention for children 3-10. Your child deserves a therapist that is specifically trained to meet his or her developmental needs. As a Registered Play Therapist, you can trust that I have the expertise and experience to help.
I provide a safe, nurturing environment where kids can play, talk, dance, sing, wiggle, shout, paint, cry, dress-up, create, move, laugh, pretend, rest, think, and sometimes just be...until they feel better.
The tricky thing is that we don't always know when kids need to feel better, but we are quick to recognize when they need to act better. So let's begin by saying these two needs usually go hand-in-hand. If we are concerned about a child's behavior, then we should also be concerned about that child's feelings.
How do we convey this concern to our children? We tell them - but that is not enough. We can't just talk about it. We must show them that we care by giving them a chance to express themselves and communicate with us in a way that feels natural and comfortable for them. This means we allow them to play.
Playing may not look like much to us, but when an adult allows a child to "speak" with play instead of just words it symbolizes acceptance. When kids feel accepted, they learn about relationships and the world around them, but most importantly, they learn about themselves and their feelings. Children that learn how to label feelings appropriately can express them effectively, have better coping skills, more appropriate behavior, stronger self-esteem, and more connected relationships.
It is important to use play in a therapeutic setting in order to overcome our adult-child language barrier. If we don't do this, wires get crossed, and unfortunately, feelings can get lost in translation. Most adults choose to communicate by talking, but this is not the natural choice for children. The old saying "actions speak louder than words" is really true when it comes to kids.
For example, a child may act silly or misbehave in order to say "I'm anxious" because he can't put it into words; he might not even know the word anxious. However, in adult language, acting out can mean the child is disrespectful or defiant, so we focus on changing his behavior, and his feelings of anxiety may go unaddressed. This results in the child and the adult feeling confused and misunderstood.
This language barrier works both ways. Adults may use questions such as "How do you feel about that?" or "Why are you crying?" to convey concern...seems logical, right? To adults, yes, but not always to children. Questions (especially when asked by an adult) can be intimidating to children. After all, they learn that most questions come with right and wrong answers; think about a typical day at school.
It's unreasonable to say that questions are bad or that we should never ask them, but it's important to recognize that our good intentions, like their feelings, can get lost in translation. To avoid this, it is better to just speak the same language: Play!