Thursday, March 15, 2012

Play Therapy

I picked up a couple books at the library on the topic of Play. One of them was explaining how 2 year-olds need to use play to help themselves feel secure after they have had a traumatic experience.

A few weeks ago at Wal-Mart, Mr. Lo witnessed a display of bullying that was truly horrifying. Two adolescent girls smashed a young girl (a younger sister perhaps?) into a freezer kiosk using their shopping cart, so that the little girl was crying and writhing, her ribs caught painfully between the shopping cart edge and the freezer edge, trying to escape. She made verbal pleas for them to free her: "I'm getting smashed, it hurts!" she shrieked desperately. The older girls laughed cruelly. After what seemed an eternity but was probably just a minute or so, the little girl was able to run away. She was sobbing. I had tried to shield Lo's line of visibility, but he was noticeably distressed by what glimpses of the bullying he had seen and heard.

I felt sick inside, and just acted without thinking; I walked up and lectured the teens for a minute on how "if you MUST be mean, please don't do it in public where my two-year-old can see such a disturbing sight." Later in our shopping trip, we came across the same little girl again. She was still crying and whimpering, trailing along behind a woman who might have been her mother--but looked, in Jerry's words, "Like a homeless lady." Sort of unkempt. And the woman was snapping at the little girl to hurry up, not making any effort to comfort her that I could see.

Lo Lo ran up to the crying girl and gave her a hug. She started laughing through her tears, delighted to receive the hug. It was one of those heart-melting moments when I realized kids are my favorite (and teens are...well, sometimes great).

ANYway, back to the play therapy idea. I have been relieved to see Lo Lo working out and processing in healthy ways his own play therapy over witnessing the abuse scene. Every day, at some point in his pretend play, he causes one of his toys to get "mashed." And then he sends a rescuer. Normally the rescuer is a "tow truck" who lifts up the offending mashing object and frees the mashee. Lo Lo also prays every night for "that girl who got mashed, that she will feel better." I am comforted to feel like he will not have lasting scars.

Hooray for the self-healing power of a toddler's imagination.