Deciding whether to call a professional to help you with your child is not an easy decision. Many parents feel shameful and insecure and often don’t talk about the challenges of raising their children to anyone within their circle of support (if they have one). It takes a village to raise a child, an old African proverb, continues to be prevalent today because it is not always easy to know how to help your child with some of their emotional or developmental challenges.
Child Psychotherapy is not just for children and families who have experienced HUGE trauma’s or losses. Child Psychotherapist’s can help parents navigate some of the most normal everyday parenting challenges such as sleeping and eating issues, school challenges and social and emotional glitches.
6 year old Annie was a healthy happy little girl right up until her family moved early in the summer into a new neighborhood and new house. She knew that she would be attending a new school in September and that worried her, but she didn’t say anything to anyone about it. Her parents began to notice that Annie was becoming easily agitated and impatient, cried more easily and began to have large meltdowns over simple little issues – which was not generally how Annie behaved. When they tried to talk to her about it, Annie wasn’t able to verbalize what was bothering her, which is very common for children. Children experience many emotions but many don’t have insight or emotional maturity to be able to identify what is causing their inner turmoil….their emotions take over and thus behaviours arise, perhaps even other signs appear such as changes with sleep and eating patterns.
Although they weren’t exactly sure about what was causing Annie to present this way, they suspected that Annie was experiencing some anxiety about starting school in September and was perhaps grieving the home, neighborhood and friends they had moved away from. They called Family First to consult with a Child Psychotherapist. After reviewing their concerns, the therapist and parents agreed that a few play therapy sessions for Annie would be beneficial. The treatment plan included the combination of a few Evidence-based interventions:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help Annie learn about her feelings and learn positive techniques to control her emotions;
- Sandtray Therapy– which allowed Annie to create scenarios in the sand by using small life representative figures and symbols, which would help her to externalize some of her life experiences and the emotions attached to them. Sandtray also helps to release any unconscious experiences that may be causing her to feel more anxious or worried.
- Theraplay® – Simple strategies guided by the therapist include the parent during this segment. This portion of the session takes place during the last 10-15 minutes and aims to help the child feel supported by the parent(s) by promoting attunement, co-regulation and nurture filled activities. It also helps the parent(s) learn parenting strategies which will help them soothe Annie’s stress responses.
Annie attended a total of 4 sessions to help her sort through her emotions. Once school started she started to make new friends and she began to express herself in healthier ways. As well, Annie’s parents felt more confident in how to help her with age appropriate responses. A few sessions went a long way towards building this family’s confidence and emotional resiliency.
Play Therapy can be a useful support for children and parents. The saying ‘It takes a Village to raise a child’ may have been an old African proverb, but it holds such wisdom which can be applied to today’s family challenges – big or small – and one that parents should not feel any shame about.