With the rise in childhood anxiety, it seems children are under more pressure than ever. We are more aware of big forms of stress on children (e.g. from school pressures, divorce, abuse, bereavement, and abuse) but they are not the only ways. Few parents or teachers intend to put excess pressure on their child but there could be some ways you are adding to their internal pressure cooker. In this article I will share two hidden ways we unwittingly add pressure and some ways to take the lid off! (In a controlled manner of course!).Read More
Being a kid can be frustrating! A lot of the time they are being told what to do by grown ups, they are learning all the time and they are often facing tricky challenges slightly beyond their cognitive or physical capabilities! It’s no wonder that tempers can flare up!
Being a parent or teacher also requires a lot of patience and it’s easy for us to get frustrated to. In this video I show you a simple playful breathing technique called woodchopper breath that is great for stress relief and can calm and settle the body and mind before the blood reaches boiling point!Read More
Around this time of year everyone is setting New Year Resolutions, have you? In my family we tended not to do this. Dad said it seemed to be setting ourselves up for failure so we avoided it altogether!
It seems pops was on to something though because there are a LOT of depressing stats out there about how many of us fail in our resolutions by the end of January…oops!
I think the reason for this is because the format of resolutions is very negative. “I will stop….eating ice cream, yelling at my kids, staying up late (fill in the blank!)
While being mean to ourselves and forcing ourselves to do without may work in the short run, for more long term change we need to feel good about doing it!
So instead of “I will stop yelling at the kids” tweak it to the positive that you want more of. E.g. “ I will speak with more kindness and authority to the children.”Read More
Forget the elves & Christmas fairies, the real heroes of Christmas are the teachers & school staff! They may not be featured heavily in typical Christmas movies but I see you! I acknowledge your daily mounting workload, the extra rehearsals, the overtime spent on elaborate displays, the strain on your voice as you try to contain the building excitement of 30+ buzzing children!
Teachers aren’t told enough how important they are. Most people can make an impact on a group of other people’s lives over their lifetime. For teachers, they impact thousands of lives!
SO… with this in mind, I hope you can add at least one of these tips to boost your self care this holiday season. You’re so close. You’ve got this!Read More
Baby’s brains are pretty incredible. They are the best learners and they seemingly never stop trying to learn more about the world! Here are some fun facts to celebrate the unsung baby brain! Read to the end to get easy tips on how to support your baby's brain growth.Read More
"Mum! Daddy! Please I really want this! I will play with it all the time. Please, please, please!"
After some consideration you get it. It looks vaguely educational even!
A week later, it’s gathering dust. You search around and find where your child is playing. To your surprise they’re stuck into the stacking cups that you put by the door to donate to charity. They are 9 years old after all! They keep showing an interest in toys that seem far too young for them lately. What is going on? What should I do?Read More
Although I have seen lots of wizards, unicorns and dragons (even dressed as them at times) in the play room, play therapy isn’t just “magic”. The experience for children, parents, teachers alike can be magical but there are logical explanations for how play therapy works. Here are just a few!Read More
After ensuring the physical safety of your child, support their sense of emotional safety at home. This article gives tips for trauma proofing your child and when to seek extra professional help.Read More
What is play therapy? Who is it for and what does a play therapist do?Read More
Three simple ways to help your anxious child at home and in the moment. These little tips are wonderful for working alongside a child who is undergoing play therapy or a child who is going through a very stressful time right now and who needs some support handling their feelings of anxiety. Seeing anxiety in our children is very anxiety provoking in itself! These tricks can help us caretakers cope too. Be sure to practice good self care!Read More
When a child is experiencing anxiety, they are stuck in a state of “readiness”. Their bodies are getting ready for action. Their heart rate and breathing rate increases and there is surge in stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Their nervous system switches into Sympathetic nervous system which is reactive and prioritises fight or flight. Blood supply rushes to the legs and arms ready to run or fight. When anxiety is persistent children become stuck and will need extra help from caring adults in their life. Seeing your child suffer from anxiety is anxiety provoking in the parents often! A play therapist can help your child move through the anxiety and learnt to self regulate the strong sensations experienced with anxiety.Read More
So who really is Bing Bong? What does he represent? And what really happened to him (sob!)?
The official line is that he's an imaginary friend, but he can most certainly mean different things to different people. Here is a unique fan theory. He didn't die. (Or maybe he did but he was reborn!) He's gone underground working as a play therapist! At the end of this post I'll share something that was left behind from him in my play room. The evidence!
Keep the tissues handy as you revisit the emotional memory of Bing Bong's story. But first, why on Earth does he work as a play therapist?Read More
Inside Out. The 2 Oscar nominations are certainly justified. There hasn't been such a brave, emotionally intelligent, creative and science based Kid's film before. Let's face it, it is a film just as much for adults. From a play therapist point of view I want to quickly highlight some of the reasons why it is so important to honour this film with the Oscar awards. Here are the top 7 reasons why I love it SO MUCH (from my play therapist geeky mind...)
It's relatable, sincere and it highlights a lot of truth bombs that those in play therapy have known to be true for a long time. Read on to find out the most poignant lessons to share from my play therapy perspective.
N.B. I am not in any way affiliated with Pixar. This comes from my playful heart!Read More
At first it was fascinating and cute watching him explore on the iPad with his chubby little fingers and eyes full of wonder. But now, long gone are the days of the old "out of sight out of mind" tactics for managing screen time.Read More
"What about me?" A common cry from siblings all over but this can be particularly poignant point for siblings of children with disability. Disability is not only a challenge for those directly affected by it but also the family supporting that child. Siblings often live in an environment where their needs take a backseat to the more urgent needs from their sibling. They face isolation at home where most parental attention is prioritised towards the disabled child. Disabled children often require multiple specialist appointments, special visits and exercises leaving very little time leftover for the sibling nor the parents' own self care. No matter how efficient and supported the family are, there is no doubt that the situation is very challenging and causes family strain.
At school, siblings can feel isolated unable to explain why they can't invite their friends over to their home. They often don't have anyone their age who understands what its like day to day. They may feel overly responsible for their sibling assuming a mini parent role thus feeling a sense of loss of childhood. A grief that is natural but often not acknowledged so it may grow into deep resentment.
Every child is different but some common ways siblings may respond to their unique family situation is to act out, rebel and seek attention. Some siblings struggle to concentrate at school due to home concerns or through lack of sleep. On the flip side some siblings may over compensate and strive to be “the perfect child” holding back their emotions and questions from fear of upsetting their parents further. Their holding back or internalising of emotions can be the most insidious way of coping for siblings. Their struggles are not readily picked up upon from their parents or teachers and may lead to chronic illnesses such as anxiety induced stomach aches and headaches. Internalising strong emotions may increase risk of depression and anxiety later on in life. There is a whole host of difficult and conflicting emotions that can be experienced by siblings including but not limited to shame, confusion, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, loyalty and of course love.
But these are circumstances we can’t change. What are we supposed to do?
It’s true that some circumstances are out of our hands and we may feel stuck. However, small tweaks to hinges can open big doors. Here are four simple ways you can support your child.
1. Have little but often one-on-one special parent-child time doing something that they love. Perhaps one parent or relative can watch your other child while you do this routine. It may only be a 10 minute visit to the park or 10 minute drawing session. Keep it simple and keep it frequent. Your full undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give.
2. Create a protected individual space. A seemingly impossible challenge in Hong Kong right? Well again, keep it small and keep it simple. It can just be a locked box or a small locker with their own toys and special things that they can keep for themselves and keep protected.
3. Work with your school and communicate your concerns. Make teachers aware that you want your child recognised as an individual and to avoid asking them about their sibling too often. An environment at school and/or an after school club where the child is free to just be a kid and not a mini adult can nourish a sense of freedom. Siblings may need a lot of praise or reassurance to build their confidence and self worth.
4. Join a support group. Support groups give siblings a chance to express their difficult feelings without feeling disloyal, judged or fearful of upsetting their parents. Sharing and listening to experiences of other children their own age helps them feel more connected and less isolated. It can provide a clear time and space for them to acknowledge their feelings and practice self acceptance and nurture self worth. Talking about feelings can be very difficult for adults and extremely difficult for children who’s language skills are still developing. Creative Art therapies like Play Therapy are a great modality to allow children to feel safe in a group expressing themselves through non-verbal means such as through Art, Sand tray, puppets and Music.
During play there is some psychological distance which allows the child to express themselves more freely, observe these feelings and process them all while feeling safe and protected behind the metaphor they were using. For example, in an activity involving puppets we may pick up a puppet that is more aggressive than we usually put ourselves across as. We may say things and behave very different to how we think we should behave normally. When using that puppet we can safely vent out our frustrations and anger. The puppet is distanced from us as we’re “only playing” and it is on our hand. We can see the puppet, see the emotion and see the behaviour without being overwhelmed by the experience of that emotion. We can process that emotion and with time put it behind us.
Lastly on a positive note,
There can be unexpected opportunities and positives from growing up as a sibling of a disabled child. With the right support children can go on to develop a deeply empathic and caring nature that leads to a caring or advocating career. Siblings can develop a mature understanding of family life and have more developed social competence compared to their peers. Siblings may have a greater appreciation of their own health and capabilities and feel pride for their parents great care that they offer their brother or sister.
Full Cup Play Therapy is offering a support group for siblings of children with Autism starting this November. Click here for more information.
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