Play therapy is one of the most beneficial interventions for helping children
Play therapy is a therapeutic intervention that allows children to express themselves and resolve their feelings and emotions through play. It will enable them to process confusing emotions that can arise from loss, bereavement, or traumatic events such as grief, aggression, withdrawal, confusion, or fear. Loss and bereavement can be a devastating event for a child. It could affect their behavior, emotional development, social skills, friendships, and relationships. Their sense of security and safety can get shattered, and their world becomes scary and unsafe. Play Therapy provides a safe and accepting space where the child can explore painful events through the natural medium of play.
Children often struggle to express themselves through words as verbal and language skills in children don’t always develop as quickly as cognitive skills, so play allows them to communicate what they may not express through words. Unlike conventional talk therapy, Play Therapy uses play and creative activities as a primary medium for communication and expression and is extremely useful when working with traumatized or bereaved children who may struggle to find the words to express their grief.
Grief, loss, and bereavement in children can be due to several reasons. It may include family issues that affect the child, such as the death of a loved one, including family, friends, or a cherished pet; separation or Divorce of parents can also cause feelings of loss in children. Change of school and subsequent loss of friendships or moving home to a new city or country can also affect children. Natural disasters or loss of everyday life due to house fires, tsunamis, hurricanes earthquakes, epidemics, or pandemics can cause grief and bereavement. Adapting to a new routine can be a complicated process, and the way different children react to a loss can vary depending on their age and personality. Some children may not seem to be affected, and some can seem very affected. Some children may try to hide their feelings not to show their real emotions to other grieving members, or some may have sudden outbursts. Sometimes grief that has not been processed may resurface after a few years or even several years later. Children may react to suffering in sporadic moments springing from despair to joy, or they may ask questions about death, dying, or other factors related to the traumatic situation. Some may show disrupted emotional feelings, such as being defiant, irritable, socially withdrawn, clingy, or increased insecure attachment signs. Some children may have sleep disturbances, nightmares, bedwetting, or regressive behavior with attention-seeking, baby talk, and temper tantrums. Some children can have physical reactions like stomachache, headaches, or feelings of unease. Parents or guardians typically feel that the child is acting out the emotions rather than talking about them. Change in behaviors that become worse with time can become a severe cause for concern.
Play therapy is one of the most beneficial interventions for helping children experiencing emotional or behavioral challenges due to bereavement. It enables the child to explore their feelings through symbolic play by which they can process their innermost emotions. It offers a safe space that allows them to express and explore their feelings and vulnerabilities. Non- directive play therapy, which is not guided or structured, is a therapeutic approach that will enable children to process their feelings of loss at their own pace, and they can resolve and work through their unconscious, internal conflicts in their unique way.
The playroom has a careful selection of toys, activities, storybooks, puppets, dolls, play dough, art materials, construction toys, stuffed animals, dollhouses and feelings, cards, and faces. For bereavement and loss, individual storybooks and workbooks could be placed in the playroom to help the child work on their feelings about death or loss. These books allow the child to understand the concept of death and loss and develop coping skills for life. With the therapist’s assistance, the child can process their loss through art, illustrations, or words, which could open up conversations and help with the grieving process. Some games allow the child to reveal their concerns and feelings to the therapist safely, nurturing.
Through the Play therapy sessions, specific themes and patterns emerge, which helps the therapist comprehend the child’s inner world and the challenges the child could be confronting. The child’s issues will be reflected in their selection of toys, their interaction with the therapist, their behavior, and other factors that provide valuable information to the therapist about the challenge. The core issues and challenges that aggravate the child’s struggles are revealed either symbolically or literally through the child’s play and the therapist uses this information to help the child use play in a meaningful and therapeutic way, thus facilitating the process of acceptance and healing. It empowers the child to find solutions to their unique challenges and make sense of their world.
Play therapy benefits the child in several ways. It encourages creativity, promotes healing from the traumatic event, and facilitates emotions through better communication and verbal skills. They can articulate their problems with improved coping skills, social skills, confidence, and self-esteem.