One of the reasons I love doing play therapy is because I get to play! I get to act silly, laugh, dance, sing, draw, go on scavenger hunts and play all kinds of games. This isn't all I am doing, however. I am actually using an intervention that is very therapeutic for kids! Most kids don't realize they are even being "counseled." This is on purpose. I get to see the child for who he really is, not someone he is supposed to be. What child can answer why he is acting or feeling a certain way anyhow? Asking that question is like asking me to do complex algebraic equations. I would answer you with a long, blank stare. The same goes for kids. I very rarely ask a child to tell me why he was punching his brother or feeling sad. Instead of asking, we get to playing. It is amazing the answers I find when I get down on a child's level. In this way, I begin seeing the world through the child's eyes and he communicates with me all kinds of things. This happens because play is a child's language. Children communicate and express themselves best without saying anything at all! That dinosaur world he created isn't really imaginative, it is actually how he views his world, himself right now. He is either the king dinosaur standing on top of the castle or the one buried under the sand. There is no need for me to ask how he feels, I already know. A child gives me all kinds of clues like this during a session. I oftentimes feel like a detective trying to figure it all out. The type of activities a child chooses to play, how he plays them, what he says or doesn't say, even the colors he uses, the pictures he draws all tell me something. While all this is going on, I am also playing the role of a cheerleader. Hey, don't knock it. I was one in high school you know. As the child's cheerleader, I am encouraging him to put it all out there, knock those buildings down, even throw the toy if he wants to. In the playroom different rules apply. He can say and do what he wants. He is the one who is in control. This sense of control is so empowering to kids! It builds confidence and gives freedom! How often is a child allowed to really be who he is and do what he desires? We adults spend most of our time telling kids what to do, how to do it, where & when they should do it. Rarely do they get to call the shots. Because of this difference, play therapy builds trust & mastery. Kids learn what they are good at through creative thinking! Confidence grows! They also learn how to solve problems on their own! They get to think through things without having an adult tell them what to do. I am still amazed at the positive conclusions they most always find. I see bridges being built, two sides compromising, dinosaurs becoming unburied. At this point, we turn on the music and dance! Maybe you will hear it coming through the walls while sitting in the waiting room. We are celebrating success. We dance because hope has been found, lessons have been learned, seeds have been planted, hearts healed! Play therapy isn't just play. It is sooo much more.
It is probably safe to say that all parents have at some point asked themselves this question. Children seem to go through mood swings often. Some days they are up and feeling good, other days not so much. How can you tell, though, if their rollercoaster of emotions are "normal" or something to be concerned about? Just because a child is sad doesn't mean he/she is depressed. There is a difference between the blues and depression. The key to determining the difference is to ask yourself this question . . . "is his sadness disrupting his everyday life?" Unfortunately, depression in children often goes undiagnosed and untreated because it hides under the cover of "normal emotional/psychological changes that occur during growth." Parents sometimes mistake real depression for thoughts of "this is just the ways kids are." What many parents don't know, however, is a child's anger and acting out behavior oftentimes has depression at its root. Here are some signs of depression in children:
-Feelings of hopelessness
-Changes in appetite
-Changes in sleep
-Vocal outbursts or crying
-Physical complaints that are unexplained or reoccur
-Reduced ability to function or do things they usually do
-Low self-esteem, feeling worthless or guilt
-Change in appearance
-Lack of interest in things they used to like
-Risky behaviors: drugs/alcohol/sex
The good news is---depression is treatable! These feelings can go away with the proper help. This isn't a forever thing! There is hope!
Parents must get this help for their child sooner rather than later. The earlier intervention occurs, the better chance for success! If you are at all thinking this could be your child, please don't wait for the symptoms to progress. Let me help you! We can figure this thing out together and get your child back on the right road. One of the biggest mistakes parents sometimes make is ignoring it, hoping it will just get better on its own. Sometimes it takes more than that and seeking help isn't an admission of failure, it is actually an act of love.
If you see any of these red flags call me or someone else immediately (I do make house calls when necessary!)
-Self harm: cutting, burning, pulling hair out, scratching self. tattooing self
-Suicidal talk, thoughts, actions of any kind
-Extreme risky behavior-(actually a form of harming self)
-Binge eating, throwing up, overeating (another form of self harm)
My heart hurts when I see the statistics on the amount of children dealing with depression. It has become an epidemic that seeds of hope can help!
Everything has a beginning and an end! I feel that is especially true for me right now. I say this with excitement as I venture out into the world of starting my own practice. I have to pinch myself to even believe I have finally arrived here. It's taken some seasons of personal growth & challenge to get to this point. It seems too good to be true at times. Life is like that though. Sometimes we feel as if everything is going our way. Other times we feel like nothing is. Our lives go through seasons. Believe me when I say I am glad to be out of the "changing diapers stage". But this has led me to the teenage years. Sometimes I wonder which stage is worse. Diapers aren't the only things that stink, they are just a little bit more easily disposed of than teenage stuff. Even so, I am especially thankful for what God has given me today. The call I have felt to help children & teens by planting seeds of hope is finally a reality. I am ready! Bring on the season!