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
When was the last time you played (just for you)? Play is one of our innate drives and number one ways to learn. Research shows that play is good for our physical, emotional and mental health yet it's often put at the bottom of the priorities list. Why is this? In this post I will tell you my theory on it and tell you about my new free offering (time limited). First,
Think of the dance floor at a wedding. We've all been there...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
Buddy the Elf has said many great quotes. But as a play therapist this one is my favourite...
"There's room for everyone on the nice list."
Has your child been put on the naughty list? Have you been put on someone's "list" before? It's time to stop labelling and start trying to understand and empathise more. Read about the best gift you can give this Christmas and learn about my free gift to you at the bottom of the page. Merry Christmas! XRead More
Understanding your child's play & What to do when it gets a little scary!
In honour of Halloween, I thought I'd touch on that common occurrence of when play goes a little...well...dark!
I suspect most parents have been in the situation when they're playing seemingly "nicely" with their child and then bam, "Barney's head gets sliced off and rolls into a massive bone crunching machine"! This is then often followed by a sinister little laugh. Creepy!
Perhaps you said "are you sure that's what happens next?" Or maybe you tried to rescue the grim tale "but then McQueen comes and blocks the blade and they all talk it out before becoming best friends,right?" Maybe you said nothing and just let your mouth hang open as you slowly edge away in a mild panic that your son is going to turn into some sort of psychopath!Read More
Find out what happened to me after I allowed myself to play everyday as part of the 31 day #PlayfulMay challenge.
The thing about play is that it's so expansive and you never know where it's going to lead you.
Back in May when I first agreed to play every day as part of #PlayfulMay initiative by The Clear Sky foundation, I had no idea that I would learn quite so much and have such a great time. Never mind lead me to fulfill one of my childhood dreams; to write for a magazine!
I learnt that even though I'm a play therapist and I advocate play for children and their parents, I too had resistance around it some days.
Play doesn't have to have a purpose except for feeling the experience in the moment. You never know where it's going to lead you, that's not the point. Stuff just happens!
I'm delighted that #PlayfulMay was not only rewarding for me in and of itself, it also seemed to inspire others. Old friends surfaced and were enthused to start talking about play and self care. I had no idea the experiment would lead me to connect better with not only my friends but also strangers across the world.
LaKay from The Perpetual You magazine spotted my blog and my experience resonated so she decided to make the whole next issue about play! I am so honoured to be a part of it and share my thoughts on how you can step up your play game in my piece "Steal your own show". Don't miss the tips for how to give yourself a play reset. It starts on Page 55 of this October issue.
There's loads of goodies inside this issue and I'm psyched to share. There's also a giveaway of colouring packs yay!
I would love one of the Full Cup readers to win! To be in with a chance...
1. Click to read and subscribe to The Perpetual You magazine.
2. Click on my Instagram post and comment "I'm in"
I hope you enjoy more play today (& everyday! :P)
Have you ever been playing around, messing about or just switching off somehow and then something unexpected and wonderful happens? Something that you couldn't predict but was a happy accident because of something seemingly random you did. Share your play serendipity in the comments below. Your comment may just lift someone and inspire them to indulge in more play today.
How travel helps you understand your child (whether that's your inner or outer child!)
This is not your typical travel anecdote.
I cringe to say it but I guess you could say I'm a "well traveled" person. I come from a long line of Irish folk with itchy feet. I've lived in Hong Kong now for over 8 years so most of my trips tend to be around Asia. Not this summer. This summer I was thrown into the alien yet somewhat familiar culture of America!Read More
Dangers of playing as an adult. Warning: Serious side effects!
I first got hit with a serious play bug at the end of April when my friend, and fellow play therapist, Sophia proposed the #PlayfulMay challenge. Playing at least once each day throughout May. If you've ever wondered what kind of psychological processes can be triggered by play (as a child or an adult), read on.Read More
What is play?
At first glance the question seems straight forward. And then you try to answer it… As a play therapist, I was quite appalled at myself when I struggled to answer this simple question (on a filial play coaching training course I attended recently). I was trying to answer in a way that was inclusive of adult experiences too and I got all stuttery and confused.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
First, a note from the last day of Christmas.
There’s always something a little sad about the last day of Christmas isn’t there? I always seem to put off the taking down of decorations and packing up until the very last moment of the day. I hope you had a great Christmas filled with quality family time, comforting food, joy and cheer! Although, I am aware that for some of you it was not like that. Christmas and other family gatherings can act like a pressure cooker for relationships and old deep seated hurts and negative beliefs. Anyone for seconds of Christmas (why-do-you-keep-pushing-my-buttons) pudding? Anyone?!
The traditions and rituals we do during the Christmas period are so familiar and often what we look forward to most. Yet, they have the power to highlight the great changes in our lives. Such as, “He’s no longer here anymore”, “She always used to put the star on the tree”, “The family will never be the same again”, “We used to spend more time together”, and “Look how our family has grown.”. That’s some bittersweet leftovers my friends! And what do we do with these? Wine? No, wait. Must. Keep. New Year resolutions…
A thought came to me when I was doing a spot of recycling with my Christmas cards. In true Play Therapy style, I was struck with a metaphor.
Inspired by my mother’s friend, I was not going to waste my Christmas cards! You don’t have to either. Cut off the front cover of the cards and cut into handy little gift labels for next year. Crafty, thrifty, a smidge sentimental and of course green!
I think I enjoyed this just a bit too much. Why? To me, it’s about transforming the old and creating something new. Taking the best bits and paying it forward as part of a gift to someone else in the future. Some things stay with us and some things we let go. So many possible metaphors but they were just mine. Perhaps something to try with some little helping hands? The only pre-requisites are Christmas cards and the ability to use scissors.
Here’s to 2015!
* Please note I will address why metaphor is so important in Play Therapy in a future post. Hold tight and keep warm!
Warm greetings friends!
Just a quick note from me to wish you all a very merry Christmas.
This year has been a busy and exciting year for me. I've been working from a number of schools as a practitioner of Therapeutic Play. In particular, I enjoyed transforming an Art classroom into an inviting Play Room space over at Jockey Club Sarah Roe School and further fine tuning my non-verbal play skills by working with non-English speaking children at a local government primary school.
One of the most challenging and exciting events this year was the setting up of Full Cup Play Therapy website and service in October. Previously I'd been working with schools and the children they referred to me. With Full Cup I've expanded the people I can serve allowing parents to access Play Therapy directly. This is especially useful for those who aren't fortunate enough to have an in-school Play Therapy service. Something I hope to work on further in 2015 ;)
It's a real privilege to be able to touch the lives of children, their families and community through Play Therapy. Seeing the children's courage and growth is so inspiring and rewarding. This season one boy in particular gave me a great and timely reminder. The greatest problem solving comes from harnessing our inner creativity....presenting my homemade, space efficient, cost effective Hong Kong Christmas tree!
I feel so blessed to work with such valuable colleagues and proactive parents. I hope I can further serve you through my blog in 2015. Be sure to like us on Facebook where I'll be sharing all things play and parenting! Help me support you by firing any play or parenting related questions you have and I'll be sure to tackle them on my blog in the new year!
Sending you warm wishes for quality family time, peace, love and joy this Christmas!
"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.
References and useful links: