Child Centred Play Therapy is an evidence based therapeutic approach that helps children process complicated emotions through their natural medium of communication, which is play; toys are seen as the child’s words and play as their language. It can be highly effective for children experiencing social, emotional, developmental or behavioural difficulties including meltdowns, early trauma experiences, high stress environments, anxiety, depression, grief, hyper-activity, inattention, and oppositional behaviours.
Are you wondering how you can implement aspects of play therapy in your own home? A great place to start is by Reflecting Feelings. Here is a brief guide on why this is an important skill and how to do it!
- Reflecting feelings enables children to become more confident in themselves; they understand their feelings, label them, and learn to cope with them. For example, a child waking up from a nightmare and talking about it with an empathic adult who does not try to minimise the experience (e.g., “That dream was scary” rather than “Forget about it. It’s not real”) is usually enabled to return to sleep.
- Feelings do not usually disappear if they are not acknowledged. Instead, they tend to become fixed and strengthen
- Not acknowledging feelings can short-circuit coping processes, leading to feelings of irritability and discontent
- Acknowledging children’s feelings leads to clearer and more confident communication between children and parents. Children learn appropriate feeling words and expressions. When children verbalise their feelings, they do not have to use inappropriate behaviour to express them.
- When children accept and communicate their own feeling clearly, they also learn to respect and listen more to their parent’s, siblings’, and friends’ feelings, which enables stronger social relationships.
Examples of reflecting feelings:
“You’re proud of your picture.”
“That surprised you.”
“You really like building Lego.”
“You really wish we could play longer.”
“You don’t like the way that turned out.”
When possible, adding an explanation of why a child is feeling something can help them to begin to make connections between experiences and feelings and help them to better understand their emotions. For example:
“You are sad because you miss daddy.”
“You’re excited that Grandma and Grandpa are coming!”
“You’re sad that Milo died.”
If adults start to view behaviour as communication rather than labelling the child as “naughty”, a whole world of possibilities open up to us around how we can respond to this behaviour… only then can we discover new ways to move forward in relationship with each other full of empathy, communication and hope.
Landreth, G., 2012. Play Therapy: The Art of Relationship (Third Edition). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Guerney, L., & Ryan, V. (2013). Group filial therapy: The complete guide to teaching parents to play therapeutically with their children. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.