Play Therapy in Center City Philadelphia: There are many reasons for seeking play therapy for your child.  Every parent has his or her own specific set of reasons. Regardless of how and why you made the decision to seek play therapy for your child, we strongly encourage honesty and openness in your initial presentation and subsequent discussion with him or her.  While the concepts that you are sharing with your child will be remain constant regardless of age, the actual depth of factual information that you share will be dependent upon the child’s age and maturity level.  Remember, as you talk with your child he or she will often react to the idea of therapy based on you.  Children, especially young children take their cues from you.There are many reasons for seeking play therapy for your child.  Every parent has his or her own specific set of reasons. Regardless of how and why you made the decision to seek play therapy for your child, we strongly encourage honesty and openness in your initial presentation and subsequent discussion with him or her.  While the concepts that you are sharing with your child will be remain constant regardless of age, the actual depth of factual information that you share will be dependent upon the child’s age and maturity level.  Remember, as you talk with your child he or she will often react to the idea of therapy based on you.  Children, especially young children take their cues from you.

   

What to say…


You will want to introduce the idea of therapy for children as a place where an adult helps a child identify and communicate his or her feelings.  During your explanation of therapy, it is okay to be direct with your child and explain that therapy is not always fun.  Talk to your child about what to expect in the first session.  Explain that the therapist will want to get to know him or her and that therapy is a safe place to talk about his or her ideas and feelings.  Tell your child that her/she might have the opportunity to draw, paint, play with stuffed animals or play games. Your child will likely have questions about therapy.  Provide your child with as much information as you have, but do not lie.  If you do not know the answer, be honest.  In most cases therapists will meet with the parents and do an intake before meeting the child.  This meeting can serve as an opportunity for you as the parent to pose some of the questions your child has and will give the therapist an opportunity to craft an age appropriate answer.

 

Older children will need a more sophisticated explanation about play therapy.  Older children will often get asked by the therapist “Do you know why you are here?”  Therefore, for older children, it will be beneficial to discuss some of the reasons why therapy might be helpful for them.  For a child around age 6 it is appropriate to talk about how lucky you feel that you and your child get to work with a therapist who is trained to help you both talk about your feelings and to learn how to share ideas more effectively.  You will need to address why the child is going to therapy in a way that will resonate with them.  For instance if the family has been fighting a lot, it is okay to say that the therapist, who is trained to help people talk about their feelings, is going to help you all as a family learn to fight less and talk more effectively to each other.  You might say something like “We are working with Ms. Julie to help our family get along better…” or “…to stop the hitting…”  Explain that many children go to therapy and discuss all kinds of issues.  It can also be helpful to remind your child that other families go through similar issues and that experts like therapists are here to help families deal with these problems.

 

It will be important to explain to your child how talking to someone helps.  Explain that because feelings can be hard to talk about that, that there are people who are experts in talking about feelings and teaching people who to communicate their feelings.  To give your child time to process that they will be going to see such an expert, remind them that soon they will get to go see an expert to talk about their feelings and how to share these feelings.  Repeat this message during the time you have before the appointment whether that is days or weeks.  Make sure to go over what will happen during the appointment and story tell about what may happen.  You can say something like, “Remember next week we’re going to see Ms. Julie.  You might feel a little scared about meeting her because she is someone new to you.  You will get to play with Ms. Julie and talk about your feelings which you might find fun.”  On the day of the appointment, especially for younger children, it is appropriate to simply say “Here’s Ms. Julie, you’re going to get to play together and talk about feelings.”

 

What NOT to say…


Never frame play therapy as punishment, as if you are sending your child because they have been bad or that you are mad at them.  Never tell your child that you want them to go to play therapy because they have “problems.”  While this may in part be true, its not necessary and likely hurtful. Remember, even if your child has ‘problems’ you by default have a problem too because your parenting style doesn’t match the needs of where your child is at this particular point in time.  Never say things like “The play therapist is going to straighten you out!” or “The play therapist is going to deal with you because I can’t.”  Making the play therapist a scary authority figure is going to cause your child anxious and resistant.  The point is that the therapist, who specializes in working with children is going to work directly with the child and teach you, the parent, the skills that you will need to help your child achieve his or her needs.  Make sure not to frame therapy as the best or funniest thing your child will embark on because it will not be.  Therapy, even play therapy requires hard work.  Sometimes therapy will be fun but other times it will be very challenging and difficult for your child.

 

For children 3-6, an appropriate introduction to play therapy could be:


“We are going to meet Ms. Julie who is an expert in helping children talk about and share their feelings.  I want us to work with Ms. Julie so that our family can get along better.  When you meet with Ms. Julie sometimes you will play and talk with her.  Ms. Julie lets kids draw, play in sand, play with stuffed animals, play board games, all kinds of fun activities that help them with talking about feelings.  Sometimes I will go by myself. Sometimes we will share the session.  Typical treatment is once a week.”

 

For children 7+, an appropriate introduction to play therapy might be:

 
“Next week we are going to meet with Ms. Julie who is a therapist.  Therapists are experts in helping people with talking about and sharing their feelings.  They can help children and adults with all kinds of issues, and can help families get along better.  Typically Ms. Julie meets with children and their families about once a week.  Since Dad got sick we have had a hard time getting along as a family and are all having a hard time adjust.  We have been fighting more and you know that your teachers have told me that you get in fights with your classmates.  I believe Ms. Julie will be able to help our family fight less and will be able to help you get along with others better.  Can you think of things that you would want to work on with the therapist? What are things about this family that you think might need changing?  Therapist are people who are trained at helping families get along better.”

 

If your child is resistant or seems mad…


A nice loud defiant “No!” might be the reaction you get.  Resistance is a common reaction.  Children can be resistant to the idea of play therapy for various reasons.  They may be anxious about meeting new people and respond with anger.  Despite your best attempts at framing play therapy as positive, your child may still interpret the suggestion that they need play therapy as an insult.  Older children might benefit from a discussion of the reasons why play therapy could be beneficial for them.

 

If your child seems scared…


Feeling scared about the new experience of play therapy is also normal.  Communicate to your child that you are picking up on that they seem scared.  Say something like, “You seem worried, tell me why.” Or “Tell me why you’re crying.”  Typically for very scared children, play therapists will allow the parent to sit in the room or outside the room with the door open until the child becomes more comfortable with the play therapist.  If your child is scared or overly worried, call the play therapist and verify that this is a possibility before telling your child.

 

If your child seems shy…


Some children are shyer around strangers than others.  If your child seems very shy about meeting the therapist see if you can stay in the therapy room for while.  Making sure your child is comfortable will help them adjust more easily to the process of therapy and this new person in their life.

 

If your child seems happy or excited…


Great!  Try to keep talking about play therapy in a positive and supportive way.  Keep in mind that your child’s feelings could change over time.  For instance, your child might seem thrilled at the idea initially but as the day approaches becomes apprehensive, nervous, sad, or scared.  This change is normal and will require you to do some reassuring.

 

Regardless of your child’s reaction to the idea of play therapy, keep in mind that usually your kid is going to react the same way as they did to the idea of a new school, or a new dentist.  Thus you are using the same skills to get your child comfortable.  Often reminding them of what transitions are like is an important part of helping them adjust to play therapy.
 

Conclusion…

 
The way you talk to your child about play therapy is very important and will influence their reaction to the idea.  While there is no one right way to introduce the idea, use the suggestions above to make sure you introduce the idea to your child in a way that they will most likely make them comfortable with the idea.  Remember that if your child is resistant or scared at first, this is common.  The key is for you to remain a positive and supportive adult, and an adult who cares about how they feel.  Also, you can approach the idea of going to play therapy as if you want your child’s input about the matter.  In the end, even if they do not want to go, they should still go.  You are the parent and in the end the decision is yours.  Keep in mind that as a general rule if your child is not interested after two sessions, find a different therapist.  If however the next two therapists you also try, your child dislikes, then likely the issue lies within your child.  You will then need to talk with the therapist about this pattern and your concerns.

Talking to Your Kid About Going to Play Therapy image Talking to Your Kid About Going to Play Therapy image