"Closer than the moon, even closer than the seas, the minds of children seem to most people not only mysterious, but impenetrable"- Burland &Cohen When was the last time you opened up to someone who you felt was not really interested in you or wanted to control you? When parents come to me and tell me that they cannot talk to their kids, the first thing I do is ask them "when was the last time your child opened up to you and what were you all doing at the time?" In all my years of counseling families, the answer has never been, "when I hounded and nagged them" or "when I was yelling at them" or "when s/he was in trouble". Yet those are the prime times parents wonder why their children won't open up!
You have to meet your child where they are! That means play with them. Play is the natural mode of expression for children. It allows for a release of feelings, can be renewing and constructive, and if the child will allow it, can give you a window into their world. Play is an easy way to reach out and connect. Play is how children develop problem solving skills. Play is where they process experiences and situations. Play is where children learn to cope with their environment. When children are at play, their toys are their words.
When you enter a child's play, you enter their world. It is a sacred invitation and offering of trust and connectedness. Children use toys to relate to their concerns. It is a lot easier for a child to act out their worries and feelings with toys and games than to use words. Some children do not have the emotional intelligence to discuss their concerns verbally.
Children tell me often that they feel that their parents do not listen. They report that parents rarely shut the laptop, put down the phone, or disengage from their adult world to enter the child's world. If you want to show your child you want to know about them, show them by coming to their level.
When we play physical games with our kids, they engage in a release. When the child has released energy and pressure, they are more likely to open up verbally. The important thing is to keep doing it, be dependable about it. Do not just play until you get the information you came for.
When play is the focus, children feel less pressure. They are more apt to be vulnerable. They know you are there for them, and paying attention. Connection is the key! As Plato once said, "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation".
Please stay tunes as we continue to discuss how to get your kids to open up! As always, thanks for stopping by!
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield