“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.” – Plato
Joining a child’s imaginary world is fascinating. One night when putting my two year old to bed, she introduced me to Trexta. My daughter told me that Trexta, who was right above her bed, wouldn’t come down and go to sleep. Knowing that I am far from the pretending world, she said to me “Do you see her Mommy?” She quickly described an elephant riding a giraffe. Although I wanted to explain that the sheer weight of an elephant would quickly crush a giraffe, I just continued to let her describe her new friend. After saying good night, she continued to speak to Trexta for another 5 to ten minutes on the baby monitor.
That night my husband and I talked about how strange it was that she had an imaginary friend. Little did we know, Trexta would be a frequent visitor, play mate, and friend in need of support. Trexta was often comforted for being afraid of monsters, taught how to do things that were difficult, scolded for not cleaning up toys, and a source of many other things (Trexta is a very naughty elephant). But with more close observation, I noticed that Trexta becomes scared of things that my three year old is scared of and comforted and taught ways to feel better.
Why do I tell this story about my sweet little one? Because unfortunately, I don’t always see that elephant riding a giraffe on my child’s ceiling. Just like I can’t always understand, why sometimes she is defiant, has an outburst, and cries at the top of her lungs. Children live in a world that often feels very much out of their control. They have thoughts and feelings about their ever changing circumstances and do not always know how to express them.
Fortunately, there is an outlet for those feelings. Through play therapy a child can express their feelings without being evaluated or judged. They are free to feel and speak through toys. They control the play and through that control, they become their own counselor, teacher, and parent. Through Child-centered Play Therapy a child can teach herself what to do when afraid and how to be comforted after making a mistake. She teaches herself it’s ok to get angry and then apologize. When a child is hurting, they often act out that hurt and do not always have the words to work through it, but they do know how to play.
As my own child is approaching four, I notice that Trexta is not as common of an occurrence. But when my daughter feels out of control, angry, lonely, and scared I know that we may have a visit from our very own elephant riding a giraffe. I do know that she is a welcomed visitor. I hope that you will let your child have a visit to their own imaginary world and give Compassion Counseling the privilege of being a part of it. Below is a website that contains FAQ about play therapy and links to more information.
Ashley Harmonson, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Meredith Ivey, LPC-