A Journey through Separation Ep3

Paula Brown, Child Play Therapist, Blue Octopus Play Therapy

A podcast with Paula Brown, a play therapist, which covers what is play therapy and how it may assist and support your child.  In this episode we discuss how best to support your child when you are going through a separation and the stages which your child may go through.  We also explore how best to tap into the knowledge you already have about your child to support them with some practical top tips and suggestions on how to do that.

What is play therapy and how could it help your child? Top tips from play therapist, Paula Brown of Blue Octopus

Many of our clients are often so worried about the impact a separation can have on their child/children.  Worries often centre around how best to announce the news of a separation and how best to deal with the impact this may have on your child/children.  We spoke with Paula Brown of Blue Octopus, a play therapist who provided us with her top tips and insight based on her many years of experience working with children ranging from aged 4 – 14.

What is play therapy?

It would be difficult for children to express in words how they may be feeling so Paula, in her role as a play therapist uses different models and media to enable children to explore, for example, a sand tray with animals, buildings, nature, art, etc.  It is through this that the child can express themselves through play.  It is a space to not do daily life and she builds on her relationship with the child to help and support them through what may be a challenging time, for instance.

Announcing the separation

Often there is a lot of discussion about how best to tell your child/children that you are separating, where you should be, who should be there, etc.  Paula cannot give specific on guidance but states that it is best to have at the front of your mind to tune into your child.  You know where they will feel comfortable, you know the tone to use when speaking with them, you know how best to speak with them so be led by your child.  Rely on what works for them, what are their preferences, what comforts and soothes them.

How does the age of a child influence how they are affected by separation?

It can be easy to think that younger children may be more affected, but Paula reminds us that teenagers and young adults can be as impacted just as much, if not more.  It is best to view the announcement of a separation as a journey, your child may make some progress but then may regress and regression can be quite common.  Progress is not going to be linear, and it is important to remember this.

Tap into the knowledge you already have about your child

It sounds obvious but you will know what your child likes, dislikes, what their preferences are in terms of their favourite toys, hobbies, their preferences in terms of sensory play, etc.  Paula recommends putting together a soothing kit so that you and your child can visualise thing which may help to calm (i.e., a warm lavender bath) or things which may help with anxiety (slime, Play-Doh, etc).

What are the stages that a child may go through?

Paula talks about the stages of grief model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope.  If there are cycles of anger and bargaining and a child is stuck with those cycles with no elements of hope or acceptance it may be best to think about getting some professional help, to assist your child with this.

How can we make separation easier for children?

It is helpful to name emotions, i.e. I feel a bit disappointed and a bit frustrated because…. It is also really important when speaking with your child about emotions that it is normal to feel a mix of emotions as many of the children’s books focus on separating them out.

Paula talks about growth mindset, i.e. I have not got this right now or I am finding this difficult at the moment, but I will have this in time.  Paula suggests it is best to avoid “good girl or good boy” terminology and to praise the effort.  As a parent it is helpful to be open minded about where your child is at with the news of the separation and to also reflect on where your child has come on the journey.

We work with other professionals collaboratively to support our clients and recognise that the impact of separation upon children can be difficult.  We are aware of the difficulties our client’s face when going through separation and we provide a supportive and empathetic approach when advising our clients at what can be a very difficult time in their lives.

For more information about Paula Brown, play therapist click here.