play and Healing
Play has the ability to help with the healing process for both children and their carers and any play that occurs between a child and their parent or caregiver can strengthen the attachment between them.
By supporting attachment a child feels more secure and positive, which lowers levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. High levels of cortisol and other glucocorticoids in the body, can suppress the immune system, by lowering these simply through the use of play times, a child’s immune function can increase, which can only be a good thing.
You do not need to be a therapist to support your child through play, the joy of play time is that we can all do it. Each Feel Better Box that we send, contains a leaflet explaining ways in which you can support your child through play. The key information is listed below:
The aim of play time is for you to both be in the moment.
There should be NO PHONES or distractions.
Your job is to hold the space for your child. You can do this by simply sitting near them. They may choose to invite you to play, they may not, but you need to be there and present for them.
Let your child lead the play, choose the activities and direct you.
If they choose to shut down a game mid-way through and move on to something else, that’s fine.
It doesn’t matter if you and your child do not follow the rules of a game.
You don’t need to interpret the play your child chooses.
There is more information available on the leaflets that come with the Feel Better Boxes.
Benefits of play for children who are unwell:
There are so many reasons why play is particularly beneficial to children who are experiencing illness, whether it’s a physical or mental health issue.
It helps children to process their experiences. Children automatically use the subconscious part of their brain, they won’t always know be aware of their thoughts and feelings. Often an adult will say to a child “and how do you feel about that?” and they will be greeted by a shrug of the shoulders or a blank stare. This isn’t because the child doesn’t have thoughts or feelings about that issue, it’s because they have not consciously processed and considered their thoughts and feelings. This is where play can offer valuable insight to the world of the child and is also where the child can work though and resolve some thoughts and feelings on their own.
One of the biggest concerns Sarah has about the loss of free play in schools is that children are not being given the time to process their thoughts and feelings about being in school, about friendships and relationships, about the people around them and indeed about the information they are supposed to be taking in.
Play time is valuable for children who are in medical settings as it allows them some relief from the stream of medical tests and procedures that they have to endure, and it also gives them a little bit of time to relax and lower cortisol levels before having to return to reality.
Play time makes happy and joyful memories and this is key to easing anxiety in times of stress for both children and parents. Every thought that we have, every day is linked to an emotion, when we are at play, those emotions tend to be calm and happy, a special time together and so stress hormone levels fall and feel good endorphins are released.
If you and your child then find yourselves in a difficult situation at a future point, you can recall the memory of that playtime together, and the memory can trigger the emotions and release the hormones that you felt at that time resulting in calmer, happier children and parents. Amazing eh!