Tackling tough subjects using play therapy

September 14, 2012

Tackling tough subjects using play therapy

Tuesday was the 11 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Both of my children were born after 9/11. However, now that they are 10 years old and almost 8 years old, they are starting to ask some difficult questions about that day. So, I thought I would share with you some tips I have on talking with our children about tough subjects such as 9/11. The first rule of thumb when talking about difficult topics is to be simple and sensitive, yet straightforward and honest. When children are confused and want answers, we will make them feel less scared and anxious if we don’t avoid the difficult conversations. Knowledge is power, so it is helpful to provide brief yet accurate answers to their questions. Try to keep the discussion open ended, asking them about and acknowledging their thoughts and feelings instead of lecturing at them. Take their thoughts and feelings seriously, and share your own thoughts and feelings about that day. You know your child best, so use your judgement as to how much detail to include. You have the power to end the conversation if you notice that either you or your child is becoming emotionally overloaded. Before you end the discussion, however, try to reframe in a positive light by focusing on the way the nation came together and helped each other get through this difficult time. For me, I was able to end the discussion on a positive note by telling my 10 year old that it was on 9-11-01 that I found out I was pregnant with him. He was so happy to know that he was able to make people smile on an otherwise horrible day. If you have younger children or older children who are resistant to talking about tough issues, then it may not be possible for your children to express their thoughts and feelings accurately.  In this scenario, I suggest using a form of play therapy to get the conversation rolling.  Play is a key component to child development and many children use play as their form of self expression.  Play therapy is known to help children deal with difficult emotional issues, so it may be helpful when discussing the events of 9/11.  Play therapies, including art therapy, are effective ways to stimulate conversations with children in an environment in which they feel comfortable. My thoughts are with everyone who was affected directly or indirectly by the events of 9/11.  To those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, and the many heroes of that day, we will never forget.  Having been in downtown Manhattan on that fateful day, I know for sure that I will never forget.



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