How Play Therapy can support grieving children

7 Nov

Play is important to every child’s development as it is how they learn and communicate with the world around them. Through play children learn how to interact and develop many skills such as language, emotions, creativity and social skills. Play helps to nurture imagination and through this, children can learn essential skills such as problem solving, working with others, sharing and much more. Not only this, but play also allows children to relax, let off steam and promotes self-expression.

Play therapy incorporates all the elements of ‘regular’ play while giving the child an opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment and in a way that is familiar to them. Play therapy allows the child to cope with external stresses and make sense of what is happening around them.

When a child with a life-limiting condition dies, their siblings can often be the ‘forgotten mourners’. In these incidents, play therapy can be a safe haven for these children, one where they are given the opportunity to express themselves and work through their emotions in a way that makes sense to them in a supported and safe environment – and without worrying they might be upsetting mum and dad.

Grief is a unique and individual experience. Children in particular can process grief in a number of ways and the age of a child will have an impact on how they react due to their ability to understand and process what is happening around them. The most important things to remember when talking to a bereaved child are to acknowledge their feelings and loss and answer their questions truthfully with an age-appropriate answer. During this time children can develop a number of worries, such as; wondering if they will become sick and die, if the death was their fault or if another loved one will die. It is important to listen to the child’s concerns while also offering reassurance on anything that may be bothering them, offering an explanation that they will understand.

For many children processing grief can be difficult as they don’t understand what has happened as they don’t grasp the full impact of death. Clear communication, reassurance and support will help a child process their emotions and help them learn to cope. Through play therapy many children find a safe place to express themselves and learn to accept death as a part of life. At LauraLynn we provide Play Therapy to children and their siblings, giving them positive empowerment and the time to come to terms with the loss of their much-loved family member.

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