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Parents: Child Development and Play Therapy

One of the biggest mistakes parents and educators make is to treat children as if they are little mini-adults. Children are children. They have unique developmental needs and desire. In reality it is disrespectful to not take their uniqueness into account when relating to them in any way. That is why a Playroom and play-therapy is so helpful for children–it sends an immediate message:

“I get it. You don’t necessarily have a language to explain what is going on with you. I will enter your world instead of requiring that you conform to mine. You can choose to talk or not talk. You can play and show me. You can use your innate, God-given wisdom to show me who you are, where you are and what you need, if only I will just let you.”

Parents so often want to ask after I have seen their child: “well, did he/she talk?” That is a very difficult question to answer. Not because the child can’t communicate, but because I can’t always just quote them. Sometimes they may innately know not to talk—realizing someone is going to get in to trouble, or they may have been told, “don’t tell.” Often they will reveal in other ways what is going on with them. Through their language of “play” they can convey a great deal: their dreams, visions, disappointment, grief, frustration. So much of all communications is non-verbal anyway. That is even especially true with children who may or may not have the reservoir of words to express their world. Children naturally engage the world of “play” to express their unique needs.

I really want parents to know that it is really OK that they don’t have all the answers, that they don’t know everything. It is not shameful to ask for help. In reality asking for help is one of the most healthy, honest, and ultimately productive things they can do for their child and the entire family’s relationships.

People are sometimes surprised when I explain what good attachment parenting involves: nurture, structure, accountability and challenge. All of those are necessary to produce an emotionally healthy and productive human. Parents tend to focus on only one of these dynamics, leaning one way or the other. But engaging all of them, striking a balance, yields far greater emotionally healthy benefits enabling the child to develop and engage life at their greatest potential.

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