Thursday April 02 2020, Erzsebet Tamas
Most of us are spending more time at home – obviously because of a situation out of our control – and therefore more time with each other. Rather than just look at the situation as a negative this is a perfect time in my opinion to cherish the opportunity to strengthen the family bond. Eventually, we will all return to the madness of “normal” life and for most of us that unfortunately means not having enough time with our loved ones. The new routines and habits we now can establish are easily tailored to suit the “normal” once we return to it. Like a familiar and effective exercise routine, a shorter routine is still a lot more than no exercise at all.
Playtime with our children is invaluable and this really is a perfect time to develop it. Play is a proven way for children to express and identify their emotions, the process has been recognized even by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child (UN, 1989). I appreciate finding a way for better and honest communication of our emotions and thoughts is not easy for most of us. Even us adults are often struggling to express ourselves and I have certainly learned how frustrating any new unknown situations are for a child. The everyday routine that structures their life suddenly disappears. The family unit can provide that security for them, with understanding, attention, appreciation and patience.
So where to start? How can children identify their emotions? We can teach them to be familiar with the emotional vocabulary and name the emotions. We can also teach how to express in the right way.
It’s all too familiar situation with children; how many times have you told them what to do and why and how, how many times you gave them a lecture… nothing worked, but the frustration builds up.
Just remember how you saw the world when you were a child?! What did you like the most? Sitting in a chair listening to adults talking to us, and not doing anything? No, certainly not. Playing, running, jumping, hopping, laughing and having fun. That is the way how children learn unnoticeably.
In my opinion based on all my experience working with children one of the most effective tools to work with is PUPPETS. Using puppetry as a therapy technique with emotionally upset children makes it easier to diagnose what disturbs them. Once the problem has been identified the solution/ therapy is much easier to initiate. As Jenkins and Beckh (1942) pointed out that puppetry empowers children remarkably to release emotions that they are not able to or are afraid to express with words. Using puppets can help working out a routine, express freely children`s aggression, clarify relationship difficulties, and help relieve anxiety (Gernier, 1983). I recommend using the simplest puppets. Hand puppets are great to transfer our emotions into directly. hand puppets encourage the participation of the audience; therefore, adults can help them to find the solutions and release the tension. (Gernier, 1983)
Just let the child to select several puppets from a collection of many character types and encourage free play with them and most of the time children will come up with their hidden emotional conflicts. As a result of using puppets children do not feel fear to express their feeling and thoughts, they can freely project their problems into a character. It is like someone else is talking for them, it is such hiding behind the character that the puppet represents and allows them to get the steam out without judgement.
Then why not try and do the same, let yourself to be a child again. Play together! You don’t have to have the most beautiful puppets; the play does not need to be the best written and performed show ever. Just let your imagination wander. It needs to be a free play for your emotions to be released.
Give your children your attention, your time, this is the most precious treasure that we have in this world.
Jenkins, R. Beckh, E. (1942) Finger puppets and mask making as media for work with children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 12.(2), 294-300.
Gernier, M. (1983) Puppetry as an Art Therapy Technique with Emotionally Disturbed Children. The Faculty of the Graduate School Hahnemann University Creative Arts Therapy Department.
UN (1989) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. Available at: www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm. (Accessed June 22, 2006).