The Play Project

The Play Project is a public awareness initiative developed by The Playroom Lubbock to encourage play, movement, and mindfulness in our kids' lives. Play is how our kids make sense of the world. Many of you have an impact in children's lives through play. The message we want to send is that play and mindfulness is an integral part of life for communicating, coping, adjusting, and discovering. At The Playroom Lubbock we provide therapy solutions for kids using play based interventions to help them fulfill their purpose in this life.

TShirt Designs by Kelly Martin, LPC of The Playroom Lubbock and Regina Penney of Penney Photography and Design.

The Resolution to No Resolution

When we are always BECOMING we have no room to BE.
— Glennon Doyle Melton

Just Be: with all of your God-given gifts, quirks, flaws, qualities, and looks, just be. When we are present with those around us we give our attention to one thing or person at a time. We embrace the goodness of a situation or person. We see beauty and life. When we are present we give hope and love for another to receive.

It's not logical. It's perhaps ironic to have a resolution to no resolutions. When we are always striving for perfection, to meet a worldly standard, or to attain the next level, we miss out on recognizing the goodness and beauty in our present.

Sure we want to become a better person or better at what we perceive defines us. When we learn to integrate our ideal self with our true self, to just BE, we open our selves up to possibilities of love, hope, and life. And that's the BECOMING to attain. Not a better this or better that, but a genuine and congruent or balanced individual.

It this permission to be lazy or selfish?

When we focus inward, we ask our selves Who am I? What is my purpose? Allowing yourself the freedom to be present will shine light on the answers to these questions. Accepting and allowing yourself to BE provides clarity and fuel to move forward. Focusing inward prepares us to pour our best outward.

What if I'm an extraordinary multi-tasker?

Multitasking can be very efficient and can accomplish many goals at once.  When you practice Just Being, your task is the present. When we multitask during moments meant for connecting with others, our connection can actually be misinterpreted and can send an entirely different message: I value you only as much as I fully attend to you. In moments of connecting with others, Just BE WITH.

But what if I need a checklist? What's so bad with making goals?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with checklists or goals. We want to ground our goals, rooted to our core beliefs. Life situations and emotions sometimes blur, twist, or alter our core beliefs. We behave in ways and make choices that reflect our core beliefs. To JUST BE helps us to reexamine our core beliefs, while taking in the present, and to regulate our emotions so that we may offer the best part of ourselves to others. Then we're ready to tackle some goals. But for now, the resolution is to have no resolution and just try being.

Car, Mealtime, Bedtime, and Device Hassles over the Holidays

During the holidays our schedules and routines change, road trips happen, boredom may settle in, and parents may feel like they are dealing with more behavior hassles rather than focusing on whatever their reason is for the season. Here are some quick tips to implement when there are hassles in the car, at mealtime, at bedtime, and over electronic devices. (Tips compiled from Positive Discipline A-Z by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glen).

Car Hassles

1. If you are having car hassles with the kids, it may be time for some training. Leave plenty of time to get to your destination. When kids start yelling or fighting, simply pull over and wait without saying a word. In this case actions speak louder than words. You've clearly heard loud words coming from the backseat. Mix it up and use your actions rather than trumping the kids' noise level.

2. If the trip is long, make frequent stops so the kids can get out and stretch.

3. Before departing on a trip ask the kids for their ideas that will help make the trip more comfortable and fun for them. 

4. Utilize a calm down box in the car when frustrations arise. Items to include in a calm down box could be: headphones, silly putty, stretchy toy, magna doodle, or a pinwheel.

Mealtime Hassles

1. Trust your kids to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are not. Inadvertently interfering in this natural process could plant the seeds for eating disorders.

2. Sit down as a family and eat a meal together--without TV or devices. Engage your kids' help with setting the table or making decorations. Plan with them what they can do to contribute.

3. If kids know it's ok to choose what they will or won't eat, they are less apt to complain. 

4. If kids complain about the cooking, simply say it's okay not to eat it, but it hurts feelings when they say they don't like it.

5. Schedule your meal time and communicate what time to your kids. Emphasize sharing stories, visiting, and sharing good feelings.

6. Practice good table manners at a time other than mealtime by making it fun, using humor, and exaggerating.

7. If you see mealtime as a time to make kids eat and to lecture about manners, the kids will probably pay you back with bad manners.

Bedtime Hassles

1. Serious bedtime problems are most often as result of parents engaging in power struggles.

2. It's important for kids to have input, but not to run the family.

3. One reason children seek more attention at bedtime is that they haven't received a good dose of it during the day. Be available.

4. Define an allotted time for the bedtime routine and stick to it.

5. Once it is officially bedtime, it's time for you to get out of the room. If you child gets up, kindly and firmly without talking take your child by the hand to his room. Actions speak louder than words.

6. If you child has developed a habit of manipulation it may take 3-5 nights to retrain bedtime routines.

7. If you have engaged in power struggles, admit your mistakes with your child and learn together how to solve the problem and try the routine a different way.

8. If needed, create a bedtime routine chart with your child of what needs to be done.

9. Use humor or make it a game such as Beat the Clock.

10. Children can learn self reliance instead of manipulation skills or dependence on someone else to help them get to sleep. They can learn to respect a parents' need for time alone. 

Device Hassles

1. Involve your children in creating healthy guidelines for the use of electronic devices. Eliminate the "battle" by deciding together, and being kind and firm.

2. Give young children limited choices. For example 1 or 2 shows? Play on iPad for 30 minutes or watch a show for 30 minutes? Play before or after dinner?

3. Notice your own behavior. If you use your device excessively, it will be difficult to convince your kids to limit their time. 

4. Help the kids make a list of activities they could do when they feel bored.

5. Talk with your kids about the addictive qualities of TV or devices so they know why you are concerned.

6. Set up a rotation for sharing devices that they can all live with.

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will ease hassles during the holidays so that you can continue healthy and productive routines. Or perhaps they will kick start your attempt at more healthy routines. Bottom line: children can learn that they don't always get what they want, that it is okay to feel upset about that, and that they will survive.

Create an Emotional Climate for Learning and Cooperation

This article gives educators a brief overview of the strategies adapted from the book, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids will Talk by Faber and Mazlish and listed in their article "How to Talk So Students Listen and Listen so Students Talk." Hopefully these strategies will encourage cooperation and foster a healthy emotional climate for learning. Try some of them on and see which ones fit!

1. Acknowledge Children's Feelings.

Kids are more likely to hear what we have to say after we first acknowledge their feelings instead of ignoring or denying them.

Instead of saying, "That's nonsense...You just need to study." Try responding and respecting his/her feeling which will lead to a discussion of the problem and a possible resolution. "Something about that word problem is frustrating you." "Oh, you sound angry at Michael. He did something that upset you."

2. Describe the Problem

Using a nonjudgmental tone, describe the problem instead of accusing/commanding.

Instead of "How many times do I have to remind you to raise your hand?" Try: "I hear an answer, but I don't see a hand." Instead of "You forgot to answer the last question. Do it now." Try: You've almost finished your assignment. I see some more left to go."

3. Give Information (without insult)

Make statements brief and impersonal instead of scolding, accusing, or threatening. Try: "Rulers are not for poking people. Rulers are for measuring." OR "When you do that, it could break."

4. Offer a choice

Many times you can offer a choice to the manner of their learning to give students more control over their learning process. For example: "You can choose to work on your vocabulary now or at the end of this assignment."

5. Say it in a Word

Instead of lengthy reminders, say it in a word. Instead of "How many times do I have to tell you to not put your foot in the aisle? Do you want someone to trip and get hurt?" Try: "Sara, your foot."

6. Catch a child doing something right and describe it

Give your students a shot of encouragement by noticing their effort and describing it. For example, if a student asks "Was I good today?" Instead of responding with "Very good!" try responding with "You helped clean up your desk after the science project and you had some interesting thoughts during our class discussion."

7. Describe what you feel

Afford yourself the relief of being genuine. You can model a way to be angry without being hurtful. Instead of attacking: "What is wrong with this class? Why does it take forever to....how do you expect to learn if...." Try: "I feel impatient when we don't get to work promptly. I would like to see all notebooks opened and everyone ready to begin when the bell rings."

8. Put it in Writing

Pass a note or send a note home to communicate a concern, reminder, or a care.

9. Solve the Problem Together

Conduct a class meeting. Gather information about how the students are feeling about a particular issue and possible solutions. Come up with some ground rules they could all agree upon.

Hopefully some of these quick strategies will increase respect and cooperation in the classroom. Thank you educators for being attuned and committed to all of your students' needs.

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How does the counselor involve parents?

Parents are a vital piece to the child's process in play therapy. Here at the Playroom Lubbock, the parents and I work alongside each other during the course of treatment. I usually tell parents when I first meet with them that when they sign their child up for play therapy, they are also signing themselves up for a form of counseling or treatment as well. Vulnerability and personal growth for the parents is just as important to the child's therapy process as is the child's play "work" in the therapy playroom.

One of my favorite authors and speakers, Bob Goff, recently provided this anecdote. One of his favorite things about visiting England was the red double decker buses. When he first saw one he was so excited that he took a picture of it. (See red picture). He was so close to it he lost sight of what it really was. Sometimes we need to back up our perspective so that we can see the whole picture. This is what the process is like for parents. I walk along side them in this process, backing up to see the whole picture, gaining insight, adjusting perspectives.

To help ease your concerns or perhaps fears of your role in the process, I will outline below how I involve parents.

1. Initial parent consultation session. This is the very first session with the counselor, but without the child. It lasts an hour. We will discuss history, concerns, and what progress you would like to see made with your child. I will also explain the therapy process as well as my practice policies and your privacy.

2. Follow up parent consultation session. These typically occur after every 3 sessions that I see your child. Before the session I will send a confidential electronic Parent Report Form where you have the opportunity to rate the stress level, rate the overall progress level, state what changes have occurred in the child's life, and voice concerns or questions you still have.

During the parent consultation meetings you, the parent, will have the opportunity to discuss changes, progress, and concerns.

The counselor (I) will cover these 4 topics: Positives, Themes, Goals, and Strategies

Positives: I will give you positive feedback regarding your child's behavior, emotions, or progress of therapy.

Themes: I will loosely discuss play themes that I have observed over the last few sessions. Play themes are dominant or recurring themes within a child's play. I observe a child's feelings during play, intensity of play, the child's level of including the counselor, a child's level of connectedness, self control, problem solving capabilities, etc. As discussed in the initial Parent Consultation and in your Informed Consent forms, I remind parents of the value of the therapeutic relationship and the trust that develops between the child and me. I will only talk about a child's play to parents in vague terms, not giving many details or specifics. I ask that parents trust that I will communicate to them any "red flags" or concerns that I have regarding the child.

Goals: Based upon parent/school feedback, parents concerns, my observances in the playroom, and the play therapy process, I communicate goals or areas that I would like to see improvements in your child's behavior, emotions, self concept, etc..

Strategies: We will discuss strategies for you to use at home to facilitate and support the goals. These strategies may be in the form of suggesting a book to read or may be more direct suggestions of ways of responding or interacting with your child.

I value the parent child relationship and fully acknowledge that the parent is more of an expert regarding his child than I am. Many times parents will ask me, "Why is that? or What does that mean?" Many times there could be a biological, neurological, psychological, or developmental explanation. Other times, I may not know "why." And I will never pretend to know "why." Sometimes the answer is "I do not know. Let's trust the process."

First and foremost I want to communicate to both the parent and the child: I am here. I hear you. I understand. I care. Relationship is the vehicle for change.

For further reading, check out Collaboration with Parents in Play Therapy

 

Who is our ideal client?

The opposite role of being a helping professional is the private practice business owner role. I am often asked to define, "Who is your ideal client?" Legitimately and appropriately asked, the answer depends on the service I am providing. My general response would be "any child or adolescent, ages 3-17, who is struggling emotionally or behaviorally or who may have difficulties in the future due to a life event or circumstance." These kids may benefit from play therapy counseling or a support/educational group where they have the opportunity to:

Develop responsibility, problem solving skills, confidence, and respect and acceptance of self and others

Learn to communicate, creatively think, express emotion.

Relieve stress, cultivate empathy, enhance social skills

If a child or teenager has difficulty or may develop a difficulty with any of the above AND it is beginning to cause stress within the family or negatively affect the child's functioning at home, at school, at work, or in the community, then it is worth calling The Playroom Lubbock for a phone consultation to see if our services are appropriate for your needs.

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The more important question as a helping professional is, "What are the ideal conditions for change?" As a child-centered play therapist, I believe the child, through play therapy, comes to form an appropriate understanding of his world and of himself. I help the parents understand their child's world through collaboration with them. Of utmost importance is the quality of the relationship between the client and therapist. The vehicle of change within the therapeutic relationship relies on these 4 messages conveyed to the child: I am here. I hear you. I understand. I care.

The ideal question for parents is "Who is the ideal helping professional for my child?" Parents should create a checklist of concerns and questions to ask such as: "What's the therapist's background or training working with children? How often do you meet with parents? How long do children stay in therapy? What can this therapy do for my child?" Partnering with a therapist or counselor is ideal. Parents know their child best, and the more information parents can gather and communicate, the better. Therapy for your child is not only a financial investment (of research and evidence based practices), but more importantly, an emotional and quality of life investment for both the parents and child. Therapy requires a parent's commitment to maintain appointments, to partner with the therapist, and to be open to change and to where the child steers the direction of therapy. 

As I mentioned before, our "ideal client" will be different depending on the service. We provide continuing education for professionals and training for parents. We will also speak to groups of kids, adults, educators, or community professionals. In the near future we will be expanding our therapy services to include speech, occupational, music, or art therapies which all address specific needs and all have their own "ideal clients."

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A Different Kind of Playroom

Here at the Playroom Lubbock we have 2 Play Therapy rooms for using in child counseling or child play therapy. These playrooms, at first glance, may seem like a kid friendly room with toys, however, the play therapist's selection and placement of toys is deliberate and based upon sound rationale.

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Children are more likely to feel comfortable in places where a sense of openness exists that says to the child, ‘You are free to use what is here. Be yourself. Explore.’
— Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth

We have thoughtfully selected the toys of our playrooms so that children will feel a sense of openness and interest rather than caution or hesitancy. The toys and play materials facilitate a wide range of creative, exploratory, and emotional expressions without the expectation of children talking or verbalizing. Mechanical and electronic toys do not allow for children's expressions and therefore are not included in our playrooms.

We want toys to support these essentials of play therapy as cited in Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth.

Establishing a positive relationship between child and counselor

Expressing a wide range of feelings

Exploring real-life experiences

Reality testing of limits and boundaries

Developing a positive self-image

Developing positive self-understanding

Developing self-control

The three main categories of toys in our playrooms include real life toys, aggressive-release toys, and toys for creative expression and emotional release. Below are pictures of our play therapy playroom for children ages 3-10. Soon we will give you a peak into our playroom for older kids and teenagers.


When Life as We Know It Changes...

When life as we know it changes, whether unexpectedly or in anticipation of the change, how do we accept it and move forward? 

In my office is my reminder that amidst storms and darkness, both of which to some degree come with change, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness" (Hillsong United lyrics). He is my cornerstone. 

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Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He’d bring meaning to it.
— Bob Goff

We can miss catching that meaning if we are dwelling on the storm or the darkness. What I have found helpful for me to move forward through change are 3 things: noticing goodness, celebrating, and resting. MOPS International's 2015 theme for mothers of preschoolers around the world focuses on these 3 theme tenets from which we could all benefit. First, we need to use our eyes to see the good things all around us--little or big-- and our words to express our thankfulness. Second and third, we need to take time to celebrate and rest. It is entirely possible to be resting while you celebrate because "Rest is participating in things that are rejuvenating" (Mandy Arioto, MOPS International).

What rejuvenates your soul?

Who rejuvenates your soul?

How can you celebrate the small or huge victories in your day to day life?

Who needs you to celebrate with them?

What do you need to let go of in order to notice, rest, and celebrate? (Productivity, shame, guilt, pride?)

Back to the cornerstone--which is why I have a visual reminder to keep me focused. What or who is your cornerstone that keeps you together, that serves a greater purpose, upon which you depend? You trust your life upon this foundation. It is the heart and core of you. It is the basis for your existence and well being. It is the "middle point from which anything rotates or revolves" (dictionary.com). So when life as you know it changes or when things seem to be spinning out of control, trust your foundation, notice goodness, rest, and celebrate.

It's More Than A Grand Opening...

Why a grand opening?

With each visitor, whether a parent, a community professional, a friend, a neighbor, an educator, a potential client, or a potential therapist, we want to share our...

Excitement

Vision

Purpose

Opportunity

 

You probably know of or will know of a child or a family who is going through a tough circumstance or has concerns with a child's behavior, development, or emotions. It is so comforting to have first hand knowledge of a trusted community resource.

We are EXCITED about a one of a kind therapy practice that focuses on childhood mental health and parent/child relationships. We are EXCITED for you to view our one of a kind Play Therapy playrooms, extra therapy rooms, and observation rooms. Kelly Martin, Owner and Licensed Professional Counselor, will be available to share about our current counseling services.

We AIM to help meet the emotional, behavioral, mental health, and developmental needs of children and adolescents.

We HOPE to collaborate with other contract therapists to provide speech, occupational, music, or art therapy.

Share our grand opening date with someone who may be interested. We look forward to opening our doors for you.

Join us August 21 at 11:00am for the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting. We will remain open for visitors to tour our building on the 21st from 11:00am-1:00pm.

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A Beginning to a Whining's End

If you've caught yourself with outstretched hands up to your head, clenched teeth, and saying "Stop the whining already!" this read might just be a beginning to a whining's end. 

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Why does my child whine?

1. Whining thrives on unmet needs. Usually that unmet need is attention. Sure, your child probably whines when he/she wants something that he can't have or he/she whines after you've said "no." We will get to that scenario in a minute. If your child is whining, he is getting a response from you. Oddly enough, even negative attention is getting some attention, and the negative attention is helping to fulfill a child's unmet need of attention.

2. Vocabulary. Your child may not have the vocabulary to tell you how he/she is feeling. 

3. H.A.L.T. Is your child hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?

4. Your child has limited control over his life and limited choices.

Why does whining lead to backtalk?

1. Mirroring what is being modeled. Are you reacting or responding to the whining? How does your child perceive your emotions and tone of voice?

2. Is there an atmosphere of power struggles by being too controlling or too permissive?

3. Are you making disrespectful demands or using calm, but firm invitations to cooperate?

4. Disappointment or setting up a situation for frustration/failure.

What can I do?

1. Put down your electronic device. Make eye contact.

2. Depending on the scenario, use physical touch such as a hug, sitting side by side, or a "tickle spider."

3. Reflect with your words how your child is feeling. "You're feeling disappointed you can't go to the park today. You really were looking forward to that."

4. Give choices within your boundaries. "You really want a snack right now. We will have dinner in 20 minutes. You can choose _____or______for snack before bed."

5. Use your sense of humor and laugh. It's ok not to be serious all of the time. Gain some perspective, view behavior as age appropriate, and see the humor in situations with children. Sometimes we misperceive being silly for disrespect. A laugh or a quick joke could diffuse a situation that could have otherwise turned into an unintentional power struggle.

6. Set up a routine or schedule board. Welcome you child's input into creating the schedule. Your child will feel ownership and will feel heard if he is allowed to make some choices or help create the schedule board.

7. If there is a hidden message behind the whine, try to meet that need: Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Unloved? Reality check: If we as parents are also feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, isn't it that much more difficult to deal with our kids' difficult behaviors?

8. Practice self care. Refresh. Relax. Play.

9. During a peaceful or happy time, brainstorm with your child how she can ask for something without whining. Practice. Role play. Point out the difference between a whiney voice and a respectful, age appropriate voice.

Ignore the whining and find lots of ways to encourage your child.
— Positive Discipline A-Z by Nelsen, Lott, & Glenn

10. Apologize if you have spoken disrespectfully. Model respectful requests and avoid comebacks. 

11. Share your feelings: "My feelings are hurt when you talk to me that way. I am going into the other room until you are ready to talk to me respectfully."

12. Instead of a command, "Pick up that toy before you leave." Try saying, "What about that toy?"

13. Ask your child to repeat to you what you just said. "What was my answer to that?" 

Hopefully some of these tips/tricks you will find useful depending on the situation and the child. Thanks goes to one of my favorite books to help guide this discussion: Positive Discipline A-Z by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn. Sprinkled with some personal experiences, of course.

Kelly

Aggression or Grace?

If childhood bullying, aggression, emotions, or boundaries peak your interest, continue reading. As I read about current research, I wanted to make a connection for you about 2 articles I read. The first article about childhood aggression cites research that suggests when a child believes he or she is being threatened by a person who that child perceives is purposefully showing hostility, that child is likely to react with aggression. (Hypervigilance May Lead to Aggression) The study also indicates that the more a culture teaches children to be defensive, the more aggressive children are in that culture.

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Are we teaching our kids to react defensively or to respond forgivingly?

Perhaps we should take a look at the second article regarding attachments and boundaries. Boundaries are important to protect one's self. Children often learn boundaries from the adults in their lives. (Attachment Revisited: 7 Red Flag Signs of Poor Boundaries).

Healthy boundaries often result from healthy attachment in early life.
— Tamara Hill, MS, blogs.Psychcentral.com

Further more, healthy attachment results in high emotional intelligence (or the ability to manage emotions). If a child lacks boundaries, it will be difficult to tell others how they feel. They may begin to feel trapped or overwhelmed. As the first article suggests, if a child perceives someone to be threatening, he is likely to react aggressively.

How do I socialize my child to be forgiving?

For starters, you can model healthy attachment and boundaries so that your child can respond with grace and truth towards others. 

Grace includes support, resources, love, compassion, forgiveness, and all of the relational sides of God’s nature. Truth is the structure of life.
— Boundaries with Kids, Cloud and Townsend. Pg 67-68
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Just Be

Be Happy. Dream Big. Seize the Day. Smile. Dance Your Heart Out. Love Laugh Learn. We see these messages everywhere from art prints to pillows to advertisements. These messages are wonderful; they really are. Perhaps they are something to aim at, to shoot for, to attain. But here at The Playroom Lubbock, we want you to

Just Be.

Come as you are.

 

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Why Just Be?

When you walk through our doors, the question is not "How can the counselor or therapist treat, cure, or change my child?" The question is: How can the counselor provide a relationship which my child and I may use for our own personal growth? That personal growth (whether it is developmental, emotional, or behavioral) starts with acceptance. We accept you where you presently stand with both your gifts and your baggage. We will see, hear, and value you and your child just as you are and with the potential of becoming all that you were created to be. So, parent and child: just be you. "Being you" creates a pathway to vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.
— Brene Brown

Through the acceptance and safety of the therapeutic relationship, you and your child will hopefully walk out of our doors for the last time ready to: Be Happy. Dream Big. Seize the Day. Smile. Dance Your Heart Out. Love Laugh Learn.

Expressive Arts in Counseling

At the Playroom Lubbock we offer individual and group counseling to kids and teens. You've probably heard us talk about play therapy (using toys as a safe medium for expression) and sandtray (using toys/figures in the sand), but what is "expressive arts" that we talk about?  Quite simply, expressive arts is an opportunity to use the arts to safely express oneself and through the process, learn by doing. It uses the arts as a basis for discovery and change. The arts can include art materials, dramatic play, acting, music, dancing, or other artful movements. The emphasis is on the process rather than the product. No previous art background is needed.

 

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When will expressive arts be used at The Playroom Lubbock?

Kids in individual counseling have the opportunity to spontaneously engage in expressive arts because of the assortment of expressive arts materials and toys available to them in the therapy playrooms. The counselor may also incorporate expressive art activities into group counseling or kids groups.

How does the creative process produce change?

Carl Rogers explains that under certain conditions, a person (child) is free to be creative, to be himself, and be open to a new experience of self awareness and change. 

If offered in a safe, empathic, non-judgmental environment, it is a transformative process for constructive change.
— Natalie Rogers in "Giving Life to Carl Rogers Theory of Creativity"

The counselor 1. accepts the child as having unconditional worth 2. listens with empathy and shows understanding of the child through nonverbals and reflective statements 3. provides a non judgmental climate by not making evaluative or critical statements regarding the child or what the child is doing.

The counselor trusts the process that the child (with the help of a safe therapeutic relationship) will take his/her experiences, perceptions, and potential where and when the child needs. *However, there are boundaries and limit setting which can be explained in an entirely other blog post.

A child's expressive art is an image or metaphor representing a child's perspectives, experiences, desires, fears, and goals. Once a child feels emotionally safe and psychologically free, he is able to blossom.  It is through the process of creativity that a child gains awareness, resolve, and ideas to move forward. It is not through a counselor's interpretation or analysis of a child's creative product that brings change.

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What is the ultimate goal for counseling?

You may have very specific goals for your child. For example, control his temper, obey the rules, not be so impulsive, not be anxious, play better with others, learn social skills, etc...Play therapy, expressive arts, and sandtray therapy will address all of those. However, the ultimate life goals for kids (and adults) is to 1. adjust, change, and seek new experiences 2. be yourself in the present moment 3. trust yourself to make the right choices and take responsibility for your choices and 4. treat others with positive regard, respect, and love.

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Anger Serves a Purpose

What We Know about Anger:

1. Anger is a natural emotion that varies in intensity.

2. Physiological and biological changes occur with anger (heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline increase)

3. Some kids are more easily angered than others. This can be a result of genetics, sociocultural factors (for example, not being allowed to display the emotion), or family background.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration.
— Turner, Erlanger. "Tips on Helping Your Child Cope with Anger." Psychology Today, April 10, 2013

4. Subtle forms of anger in children may include pouting, sulking, and whining.

5. Anger can be a response to danger, a form of self-expression, or a declaration of independence. It can also be a symptom of being hungry, tired, or lonely.

6. Emotions under the surface of anger could be: embarrassment, annoyance, shame, guilt, grief, nervousness, insecurity, disappointment, frustration, helplessness, jealousy, regret, hurt, pressure, rejection, fear, inadequacy, or loneliness. 

Anger serves a purpose to communicate a child's unmet need. Through being aware, listening, teaching, modeling, and accepting the emotion, anger can be productive rather than destructive. Relieving rather than damaging. Insightful rather than unacceptable. Motivating rather than suppressing.

Strategies for Purposeful Anger for Children

1. Listen, Listen, Listen. Listening may include increasing your awareness prior to any outbursts of anger. What or who has changed for the child in the environment? What other feelings is the child showing? Any other physical symptoms? What is your child doing differently from his/her typical responses or routines? Listen, Listen, Listen also means the obvious for verbal kids: Listen to his/her story without any interruptions or suggestions.

2.  Teach and Model: Teach your child to identify the physical responses of anger: feeling hot? heart racing? eyes tearing up? fists clenching? grinding teeth? Put a name to feelings: decide on a feeling name for those responses and put it to use: "I am feeling so ________." Or "You're feeling really ______." Model your own anger managing behaviors by expressing the feeling, verbalizing how you will calm down, and verbalizing your choices.

3. Calm Down: Use some calming strategies when your child feels the symptoms of anger. Ideas are: taking deep breath, blowing into a pinwheel, blowing bubbles, squeezing silly putty, drinking a glass of water, playing alone, shaking sensory bottles, throwing wet sponges outside, stomping on an empty egg carton, drawing, journaling, doodling, listening to music, taking a walk, screaming in a pillow, etc. Giving your child calm down choices helps to reduce frustration, especially frustration that is a result of feeling of powerlessness or helplessness. If your child is feeling out of control and at risk of hurting himself or another person, separate her from that person or from a room/objects that aren't safe. Stop the action and restore safety. We love these 26 phrases for calming down an angry child: Click Here

4. Give Choices: This really only is helpful when a child has calmed down and all physiological responses have decreased. Look for possible solutions that may include compromising or apologizing.

5. Set Limits: Remind your child of limits to aggression. For example, "Hands aren't for hitting. If you choose to hit, you choose to not play right now." "Our family rules about cussing at people are ______. You can choose to write out your thoughts or doodle in your notebook. If you choose to cuss at your sister you choose to ___________(insert consequence)." If your child continues to break the limit, follow through with the consequence. 

6. Teach empathy and forgiveness: Children need your help with learning empathy. Without using guilt or shame, talk  about what another person's perspective might be. What are some options of expressing herself about her own perspective? Regarding forgiveness, apologies  can help kids move from guilty feelings to hopeful feelings that they can do better. Reassuring your child of your love communicates that their anger or angry behavior doesn't make him a bad kid or an unloved kid.

When Anger is Crying for Help

When anger persists and interferes with relationships with family or friends, remember that the purpose of anger is to communicate an unmet need. Are there threats to safety? Deep tensions in the family? A  developmental delay in language or social skills? Some kind of loss? If you're concerned about your child's anger, discuss this with a mental health professional. You're welcome to start with us at The Playroom Lubbock.

More on Brain Science and Resetting Your Body

Check out our other article here about the neurobiology behind anger, anxiety, and dysregulation.