This is what a six year old told me this week when i went to collect him for his weekly play therapy session. He was referred for play therapy as he was getting extremely upset every morning when mum brought him to school and tried to leave him. He would sob and cling to her, asking her not to leave. As often happens when children are referred to me, when i have my initial meeting with their parent or carer, i discover the child has experienced some form of trauma which can help to explain their behaviour. With this child it was his repeated experience of loss due to his Nan dying and his dad leaving home which had resulted in him being so clingy and anxious about mum leaving him. When children experience situations like this, the world becomes a very scary place and it is not unusual for them to become anxious about separations. I spoke to his mum and encouraged her to get him to choose a teddy each morning to bring to school with him and for her to give him when she leaves. I explained to her and to his class teacher that this would be used as a transitional object and that he needed to be allowed to have the teddy with him for as long as he needed it, even if this was all day. At first he had the teddy with him for long periods of time, sat on his desk or lap when he was working, but this gradually reduced over time and he would put teddy straight in his drawer, unless his class teacher was absent (another loss for him) when he would have teddy on his lap again. Today, after a half term break where he has been with mum all week, he has decided he doesn’t need to bring his teddy with him to school anymore. By having the teddy and helping him to reduce the stress and anxiety caused by leaving mum, he is now able to manage the stress himself and is no longer anxious. I have to admit, i was delighted when he told me, as were his mum and his teacher!
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- Not making assumptions about children’s understanding
- My needs don’t matter – the danger of children being people pleasers
- Is this child “having a drama” or is it a lack of resilience?
- From snatching to sharing…..the benefits of emotionally focused group work