The power of play therapy

The  power of play therapy

Who knew that a game of peekaboo could be so profound.

When Wonder Boy came to live with us, he was typical of many children from a chaotic home life followed by a stint in foster care – it had left its mark. The effects don’t miraculously fall away just because your kid had a mummy and daddy who loves them.

In fact things can get worse: regression. Your kid’s sense of shame is so great he/she feel worthless – how can anyone love someone as rubbish as me. I’m going to prove it.

Things really came to a head when Wonder Boy entered junior school. Faced with a new teacher, in a new part of the school, playtime in a new playground with new kids and lessons that meant changing classroom and to top it off, a teaching assistant who was just a little too strict. It was all too much. I think Wonder Boy felt out of control and all he could do was to lash out.

The worst day was when Wonder Boy lost his coveted class rep position (voted in by his peers), tore a child’s coat and then hit another. I really thought expulsion was on the cards.

I rang my social worker. We need help, Wonder Boy is struggling at school, he can’t interact with his peers without an argument or fight and nothing seemed to be help.

We were put forward for theraplay, which is as it is sounds – therapy and play mushed together with more emphasis on the play.

About six months ago Shelley entered our life. Each week for 24 weeks our living room was turned into a giant indoor soft play area. Cushions, duvets and throws scattered on the floor and we released our inner child playing seemingly silly games: karate chopping newspaper, popping bubbles with knees and elbows, indoor basket ball, hiding cotton wool balls in our clothing and the other person had to find them, peek a boo and much more.

The theraplay sessions were the highlight of Wonder Boy’s week. Forty-five minutes of undivided attention from mummy and daddy. One of his favourite games was simply o take a strip of crepe paper and measure bit of him: his leg, his back, around his head, his nose, his ears. I think this helped us pay close attention to him, marvel at him the way you do with your newborn.

It made me think how much my little boy had lost, the huge gaps in his early years development and care, that have contributed to some of the issues he faces now which can making the simplest of things so hard.

Has it helped? Theraplay has helped. A lot. Our home life is much calmer, he rages less, he feels more settled but we still have a long way to go. I guess we’ve managed to fill a few of those gaps.

The squeezey game

One game we like to play is the squeezey game, great when you are queuing / waiting and trying to keep your kids distracted from the tedium – or in my case the anxiety and anticipation of what might be ahead.

  •  Hold hands.
  •  Take it in turns to squeeze the others hand.
  •  The thing is you squeeze your child’s hand, then they return the squeeze back to you. But they shouldn’t tell you when the squeeze is coming, you just have to wait and anticipate it.
  •  You return the squeeze, but not straight away, again wait, anticipate the squeeze.
  •  Keep exchanging squeezes – but you just don’t know when the squeeze will come.
  •  It’s a great way to get your child used to low levels of anxiety and anticipation.

Have fun!

Photo credit, Droid Gingerbread, Flickr


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