Saturday, March 24, 2012

Play Therapy Part 2

I need to upload some photos. Sorry for yet another (boring?) pictureless post. I am just having such wonderful epiphanies about Play lately, figured I'd record some more thoughts on the matter. Most of my thoughts are coming from this book. I love it! Agree with it 100%!
I used to get bored playing with my baby/toddler. There. Admitted it. There was something mind-numbing about doing the same simple activities over and over and over...though it was darling when baby giggled, I was shocked how much he seemed to crave repetition. And from an adult perspective, repetition quickly got monotonous.

Now that I have been learning more about the higher purposes of play, and developed specific ways to enhance Lo's play, I don't feel bored about playing with him.

Example of one higher purpose of play: Build feelings of power and security. Our move from Ohio to Idaho was traumatic for Lo. The several months prior to moving, we slowly gave away/sold most of our household goods, Jerry and I were pretty stressed about getting ready for the transition, and Lo Lo became noticeably disturbed about the whole deal. He had a personality change--temporarily became abnormally aggressive, needy, anxious, etc. After we moved to Idaho, it took more than a month for him to settle in. He wanted held most of the first week after we arrived. The first couple weeks, he would not let me out of his sight. After about a month or so, I remember feeling overjoyed when he started to explore around my parents' house on his own. And now, after three months, Lo seems like a happy, normal, well-adjusted toddler in every way.

Throughout the past few months, Lo became transfixed by the notion of "Home." He talked at least a dozen times each day about how "our house in Ohio got blown away." Frequently, he asked us tell him the story of the 3 Little Pigs, and then he re-enacted it, building forts and then knocking them down, and declaring himself to be the Big Bad Wolf who blew down houses. This type of play was helping him foster a feeling of power. Because he had felt so powerless during our move, helpless as his precious toys and beloved friends were snatched away, it was important for him to regain some sense of power.

But I was a little bothered by the dark ending of that play scenario. He blew the house down. The end. Enter my crucial role as a parent. I now make a conscious effort to bring a positive emotion to Lo's play. For example, we add themes of rescue to the darkness. Some of this Lo has done on his own, like in the previous post. But often, I need to make a statement that reminds him of the possibility of rescue. "Did those pigs get hurt when they were buried in the house? We need to build a hospital for them!" Lo excitedly gets to work with his blocks to build a hospital. This type of direction makes the play even more healing--replacing violence with aid. See why it is so important for parents to observe? To be present? To play with or near their children? I have so much power to enhance his play! To coach his development. Mostly he just naturally does this type of creative play alone, but I try to be in the vicinity to listen to his self-talk so I can observe themes, gain insights into what he is thinking, and give a nudge or two in different directions if needed.

Lo also loves the song, "The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock." For obvious reasons, he is again transfixed by the fact that the foolish man's house washed away. "Our house in Ohio washed away," Lo informed me multiple times. I am still not sure how to reframe this negative. But I just agree with him for now, "Yes, our house in Ohio is gone." But then I remind him all the things we were able to take with us: "Remember how the truck brought your baby mattress?" This is a lie--we left his toddler mattress in a dumpster in Ohio. But when we got to Idaho, Lo genuinely thought the new twin mattress we brought in the house for him was his bed from Ohio. "My baby mattress got put on the truck and came to Idaho!" So we went with it. And I remind him all his favorite toys that we still have, and that we are so happy to live with Grandma and Grandpa now, etc. Focusing on the positives.

One more story of cute play: last night, Lo found a package of these ties, and immediately got absorbed in what I could tell was a higher order of play. You know that look of intense concentration kids can get? He had it, a faint half smile, eyes relaxed yet alert. And his self-talk during this play session was precious! He kept saying, "I wonder what I going to build?" interspersed with frequent exclamations of "I can do it!" He was so pleased with himself. And guess what he built? Interlocking a dozen or more of these ties, he created, "A house for the Big Bad Wolf."


NessaAnn said...

What a cute boy. Not to rush you in any way, but it is even better when they have a little sibling to play with. I get great enjoyment from watching my two eldest (5 and 2) play with each other, and even occasionally with their baby brother. And then I get to enjoy it when they "work" with me, which I find really fun, and more natural, too.

Gisela-David said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I should really find this book. Between 2 moves and a deployment, I can see what my kids have been doing during play time and connecting it with what you have shared about Lo's play. I need to pay more attention.

Melody said...

You are such a good mom.

TheTamFam said...

Gisela, you reminded me of one point in the book I don't agree with fully. (rats, and here I thought I'd finally come across a parenting book I agreed with 100%).

The author comes across as sort of anti-war. Which is strange, seeing as how she has a whole section in the book on the need for people to stand up against bullies. As members of the LDS church, we understand war is sometimes necessary--the kingmen needed executed, the title of liberty needed raised, there was even war in Heaven!! So I don't know how that part of the book (the ultra-pacifist part) will feel to someone from a military family reading it. The author just seems to say War = BAD. Without considering the complexities of the strong needing to protect the weak, etc.

Anyway, yes though I'm glad you felt a connection with what I described from Lo's experience. I'm sure you can find something in this book to help your kids adjust to all the upheaval they've endured. Kids really are resilient. Thankfully. =)

TheTamFam said...

Oh, and thanks "Melody." (Whitney). I try my best most days, which is all that can be asked of any mom.

Though I want to say I've tried to steer away from ever using "good mom/bad mom" labels. There is no such thing as a good or bad mom, only moms who are more or less effective at raising happy, well-adjusted kids at any given moment. Everybody is a mixed bag. And of course, I just blogged about one of my good moments so it would seem. :)

Valerie said...

Nice post, as usual!