Step 4: Speak The Language Of Your Child Through Play

Meet Mary.  She is an 8 year old little gal who loves to talk, enjoys swinging, and cannot wait to get outside to run around.

In the classroom, she tries her best to stay on task and listen.  Yet, she is constantly out of her seat, interrupts her teacher and her peers, and seems like one big ball of energy, ready to explode.

Her adopted parents know that she had a tough early childhood.  She was severely neglected, basically left to fend for herself when she was 1.  Her biological parents were drug addicts and would leave Mary in her crib for hours and hours.

Over the years, Mary has learned to trust only a few people.  She puts a big guard around herself because she is unsure if anyone will take care of her or follow through on their promises.

Mary came to therapy because of the issues she was having in school.  We started our relationship very cautiously, her sizing up me and I working hard to earn her trust.

Play was a crucial step in developing language and trust between the two of us.  The more we played, the more we talked.  The more we talked, the more Mary started to feel comfortable exploring those deep down icky feelings of abandonment, fear, and loneliness.

When Mary played a game with me in therapy or did an art project, she would not have to look me directly in the eye.  We sat side by side, working together.  This was less threatening and helped her begin to feel safe.

In the home, at school, or in the therapy office, play is CRUCIAL for building safety, trust, and an enduring relationship.

If a child does not feel safe playing with the adult, that child will never feel safe exploring the tough stuff with an adult.

Small children spend their entire world playing.  Children who have had severe emotional neglect or abuse often miss these important developmental steps.  We, as adults, can help fill the gap by playing more often and engaging in a playful manner with our children.

Sending you love,

Stacy G. York, LCSW

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