This series of articles involve play therapy. The names and genders of the people involved change from article to article to protect the identity of those in therapy. The children in these play therapy sessions are between 6 and 10. These articles are by no means a replacement for good play therapy. They are just some ideas to help parents cope until they get their child off the waiting list!
In our last therapy session, the therapist (we’ll call her Janet) asked our child (we’ll call him Sam) to write some of the feelings he has in the cup. He wrote love, sad, worried, mad, hape (happy), scared, excited, love, mad and shy. We discussed how lots of these emotions overflow. When there’s too much feelings they overflow from our body.
This was a super helpful picture for him to be able to understand the BIG feelings he has and what happens when there are too many. Our child was able to explain some things that happen when his BIG feelings overflow such as crying, screaming, hitting, throwing, swearing, and hurting himself and others. We discussed the importance of letting our emotions out and not keeping them bottled up until they overflow. We didn’t do a lot with this as it was just to help him understand what BIG feelings are. We discuss BIG feelings in all of the upcoming sessions.
You’ll notice the word “unloved” at the bottom. Janet pointed out the fact that Sam had written the word “love” a few times and also spoke it a few times when telling us the emotions. Janet pointed out, “Love is written a few times, that seems to be an important word for you. Do you feel love when you’re feeling scared or mad?” Sam thought about it and replied “no”. Ugh, insert sucker punch to the gut here. Feels crappy as a parent to hear your child doesn’t feel love when they are in the midst of a tantrum but makes sense. It’s not typically the time when parents feel the most love towards their little monster who is throwing things or screaming at them. It is an important to remember that when your child is out of control and dis-regulated that they still need to be reminded that they are loved. If not during then, at least after the rage subsides.
Janet saved the day and explained to our child how love works. She drew a sun under the word love. “Can you see the sun today?” she asked. “No” Sam replied. “But we know it’s still there. Love is the same. It never goes away. You may not always see it but it’s always there. Mom and Dad love you always, even if you don’t feel it when you are being disciplined or you are away from them. This made Sam smile. Understanding clearly the analogy. This made me happy too. Though my child understands better now that love may just be hiding behind the clouds, I still need to remind him that he is loved before, during and after his meltdowns.
After this exercise, we played a game of snakes and ladders but each colour is associated with a feeling. Yellow is happy. So when we land on the yellow square, we need to say something that makes us happy. Green is afraid and that is a whole other post!