Suggestions for participating in play therapy with your child.
Play is the language of children. Play is the way children verbalize what is going on with them cognitively and emotionally. Play is not therapy by itself. In play therapy, the therapist enters the child’s world and makes a connection, giving empathy, understanding, and feedback, respecting where they are emotionally, and what they are expressing. Play therapy allows a child to express him/herself, and the play therapist lets the child know he/she is important by providing the attention, time, and nonjudgmental response to what the child is expressing.
Parents are asked to follow these guidelines when entering the play therapy setting:
Prepare yourself prior to play by reminding yourself to leave your “disciplinarian” hat at the door. The therapist will be in charge of the rules of the playroom.This is not the time to educate your child or ask questions. Asking questions makes the child think. This is a time for your child to be creative and emotional.
The basic rules are that no one gets hurt and nothing gets broken intentionally (breaking it just to break it). All toys remain in the play therapy room. When it is time to leave the play therapy room the child must leave the room.
All feelings are okay. Play is a time when children follow their impulses, so difficult emotions may emerge. The playroom is a good place for these feelings. Do not judge or show disapproval in the play therapy room.
The child is in charge of the play, follow their lead.
The child will choose what activities and toys with which to play. Toys that are not allowed at home, may be allowed in the play therapy room. Do not dissuade the child from playing with these toys in the play therapy setting. Following play, and outside of the play therapy room, you may state that in your household those toys are used only at play therapy.
If you feel confused about what the play is expressing, try to suspend critical thinking, follow the child’s lead and improvise. This may lead you to a greater understanding of your child’s feeling and beliefs.
The therapist will create opportunities to talk about issues that are important to both parent and child, in language adapted to the child’s age.
You will have opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns after the session when you “de-brief” with the therapist.