Non-Directive Play : A Way to Reduce Anxiety in Young Children Part II

Non-Directive Play : A Way to Reduce Anxiety in Young Children Part II

Part 2

In part 1 of this post, “Non-Directive Play : A Way to Reduce Anxiety in Young Children Part I”we talked about a tool called Non-Directive Play (or Child-Centred Play) that has the power to reduce anxiety in young children. We encourage parents to use non-directive play with their children as it produces great benefits in the mental health and well-being of their children. In part 2 of Non-Directive Play, we suggest ways parents can learn how to apply the play to their children and explain further how the play solidifies attachment and a feeling of safety in young children. 

 

Non-Directive Play Solidifies Attachment

 

Non-Directive Play helps solidify the attachment bond between child and parent. Children who lack a solid attachment bond with their parent or caregiver have an increased inability to cope with anxiety. A strong attachment bond gives children a strong ability to deal with anxiety, boosts their self-confidence, and becomes the foundation upon which a child’s relational framework and social skills will be built on. Research conducted by Ray (2008) showed that engagement in Non-Directive Play “demonstrated a statistically significant positive effect” on any stress pre-existing in the parent-child relationship. For all these reasons, parents should put in the time and effort to facilitate a strong attachment bond with their children.

 

Non-Directive Play Enhances Safety

 

Non-Directive Play has been shown to enhance a child’s general sense of safety. This happens due to the safe environment of exploration and self-discovery that non-directive play promotes. During the play, a parent will refrain from asking any questions to preserve the safe, exploratory nature of the space that has been created, and he or she will not ask the child any questions they feel like must be answered. A safe play space is one within which things do not have to be qualified or categorized, but can simply exist, and be recognized and accepted as they are. All levels of anxiety are removed as there is no need to please one’s parent or caregiver.

This safe environment constructed by Non-Directive Play has been shown to lessen a child’s attention-seeking or acting out behavioural patterns. This method has demonstrated the greatest benefit for solving broad-spectrum behavioural problems, increasing children’s self-esteem, and reducing caregiver–child relationship stress (Lin & Bratton, 2015).

Non-Directive play is a simple process that can lead to incredible results for children. These results can be immediate and the positive impacts will be seen throughout a child’s life. Measured effects of Non-Directive Play include a more positive self-concept of oneself, better anxiety management skills, increased confidence, improved social skills, and a decrease in behavioural problems. All of these effects can make a significant impact in a child’s life and improve the family system as a whole (Wilson & Ryan, 2001).

While the concept is relatively simple, it can be difficult for parents to stop evaluating or reinforcing their child. Positive reinforcement and curiosity towards their children occurs very naturally to most parent, almost like a knee-jerk reaction. As a result, the best way to learn to engage in Non-Directive Play with one’s child is through learning from a therapist who is well-versed in the technique. This can give a parent the confidence to use the technique and the freedom to enjoy that time with their child. Parents who demonstrate an unconditional acceptance lay the groundwork for their child’s own acceptance of him or herself. Any pre-existing anxiety of the children will eventually be replaced with a sense of peace, comfort, and well-being.

 

References

Lin, Y. & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta‐analytic review of child‐centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 45-58.

Ray, D. C. (2008). Impact of play therapy on parent-child relationship stress at a mental health training setting. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 36(2), 165-187.

Wilson, K. & Ryan, V. (2001). Helping parents by working with their children in individual child therapy. Child & Family Social Work, 6(3), 209-217.

Non-Directive Play : A Way to Reduce Anxiety in Young Children Part I

Non-Directive Play : A Way to Reduce Anxiety in Young Children Part I

Part 1:

Reducing Your Children’s Anxiety

 

Recently, we have noticed a rising trend of anxiety in young children. This is particularly troubling as anxiety onset at a young age can lead to behavioural problems in the future. Thankfully, there are many tools and approaches designed to help your child cope with his/her anxiety.

 

Anxiety in young children come from their incapability of processing anxiety that fits under the norm of effective emotional regulation. Children don’t learn to effectively process multiple emotions until they are approximately 8 to 12 years old. Kids who are under the age of 8,  are incapable of identifying or seeking relief from complex emotional experiences. This inability to process emotions in a healthy way will often lead to anxiety in children and prompt them to act out in different ways.

 

Often parents will come to therapy to seek answers for these tough questions: how can I help my child reduce anxiety, or (more commonly), how can I stop my anxious child from acting out? Clearly, this is a problem that carries much weight. Thus much attention has been devoted in the therapeutic world to teaching parents effective tools for helping their child to cope with complex emotions. It is our hope these tools will help prevent an anxiety that can easily overwhelm children.

 

Non-Directive Play Reduces Anxiety

 

One tool proven to be effective in reducing anxiety in young children is Non-Directive Play, also known as Child-Centred Play. Non-Directive Play is a soothing approach of play where the child is given ultimate freedom of expression to play however they want to. Basically, the child is free to choose the items they want to play with, without getting judged or evaluated by the parent or caregiver. Children are given this freedom in a  pre-determined play structure and pre-established timeline. The theory is a child’s anxiety will decrease when they are allowed freedom to play as they wish without any evaluation or scrutiny by a parent.

 

During a Non-Directive Play session, a parent will sit with their child and give the child plenty of space to engage in that world freely. There are instructions given beyond the predetermined parameters. The parent will engage by simply learning to notice and describe what their child is doing during the play. These statements are free of judgement or evaluation.  This means parents should refrain from giving any signs of approval or disapproval while the child is playing. The parent is present only to observe and reflect a genuine interest in the child’s exploration and activities.  This can be expressed in a warm manner, gentle voice, and other clear indications of positive regard. Non-Directive Play allows the child to bask in the attention of his or her parent without having to give any explanations of justifications. In this framework, the parent gets to be the opportunity to be a warm and acknowledging presence for the child. 


Improving Coping Skills for Those With Anxiety 

 

Research has shown that engaging in this type of play semi-regularly can improve a child’s ability to cope with anxiety as well as increase their self-confidence and independence. In the study of effects of teaching parents to engage in Non-Directive Play with their children, Wilson & Ryan (2001) found that children showed improvement in terms of becoming “more manageable and accept(ing) adult control more readily”. In addition, Wilson & Ryan (2001) found the self-esteem and social skills of children may increase through continued use of non-directive play, making them more amenable to discipline. In a 2008 study, Ray also spoke of the positive impacts of Non-Directive Play, noting improvements in children who were exposed to this technique. You see improvements in their anxiety symptoms, markedly better social skills, and a decrease in any clinical behavioural problems.

 

 

References

Lin, Y. & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta‐analytic review of child‐centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 45-58.

Ray, D. C. (2008). Impact of play therapy on parent-child relationship stress at a mental health training setting. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 36(2), 165-187.

Wilson, K. & Ryan, V. (2001). Helping parents by working with their children in individual child therapy. Child & Family Social Work, 6(3), 209-217.

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