Come Play with Me
One of the most important ways for parents to connect with their children is through play. According to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “free and unstructured play” is both “healthy” and “essential” for the cognitive, emotional, and social development of children. Play has been found to reduce stress and anxiety in children. When a parent engages in positive play with a child, the child learns that she matters…that her emotions matter.
She learns that an adult can provide safety both physically and emotionally. As a parent tunes into the child’s emotions and responses, the child learns how to regulate her own emotions. When a child and parent are in tune with each other there is a “resonant flow of being together.” These moments help a child to develop an organized sense of self and secure attachment to others.
Jukka Mäkelä, M.D, the author of What Makes Theraplay® Effective: Insights from Developmental Sciences, explains that a parent’s touch and voice during play can soothe a child by activating the “calming circuits” of the brain. Theraplay® is one form of play therapy that addresses the emotional, cognitive, and social development of children. Through activities that mirror parent child interactions and heightened emphasis on attunement, the therapist creates the physical and emotional safety necessary to allow the child to experience herself in a different way.
As the therapist brings parents into sessions with the child and teaches them how to attune to the child, the parents also experience themselves in a new way. According to Dr. Mäkelä, the child experiences “being seen” and “thought about, living and having an effect in another’s mind.” For the parents Mäkelä states, “seeing the well-being of ones own child enhances ones own feelings of being worthy and is thus a potent organizer of mental well-being for the parent also-where the parents emotional hurts can also be tended to.”
Children who have difficulties with emotional regulation, attachment, and social anxiety can benefit from play therapy. At Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando, we have trained mental health counselors who can provide a physically and emotionally safe environment through play to help your child see his or herself in a new way. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Metrowest Orlando at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.