Child Therapy and Cleaning up after Messy Play

A while ago my daughter was displaying behaviours very unlike herself and I paid privately for her to go to see a play therapist. My little girl was bottling things up and regularly cried for 1-1.5 hours at a time and could no longer verbalise what was wrong.  It was awful seeing her like this.

It was worst on days when we were about to handover from my house to her Dad’s, so I can only assume it was anxiety related about something she was unprepared or unable to articulate.  After all she was only 6 years old at the time – it’s taken me till my late 30s to articulate some of my own emotions so being 6 and feeling so tense must be terribly hard!  Seeing her like this was so distressing I’d end up feeling close to tears myself with worry.

The play therapist was WONDERFUL and a few sessions later it was like having my child back!  In my daughter’s last session, she painted the most beautiful blue sky with 3 clouds.  The therapist felt that the clouds represented her, me and her brother: the 3 of us.

One useful tip I learnt is to name emotions as you view them.  It gives children validation and gives them language to understand themselves.  Another trick I learnt from her I would NEVER have come up with myself….

PARENT CLEANS UP AFTER MESSY PLAY

Here’s where it gets tricky for clean parents (not me, really!)

Allow your child plenty of time and space for messy play.  Shave foam, painting, plasticine, painting the house with water outside. Anything that allows them to just express.

Then afterwards, if your child wants you to clean up her mess, JUST DO IT.

It’s basically the child saying to you “Look here, this mess I’ve created represents my emotions – I need you to help me with how messy they are.”

And by cleaning up the mess, you are basically saying in return, “And Mummy will make it right again for you”.

Clean it up. Tension gone. Trust restored.

It worked! Please note, I’m not advocating that this is the right tack to take with kids who are not displaying emotional issues and looking for a way to shirk responsibility!! 😊

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