Play is an important part of a child’s life. For babies and toddlers, simple, playful interactions with care takers help develop sturdy brain architecture, the foundations of lifelong health, and the building blocks of resilience. (Resilience is the ability to use the internal and external resources you've accummulated/learned to perservere through hardships). Children can practice and strengthen important executive function skills that will help them throughout their lives through games and playful activities, including learning to focus their attention, strengthening their working memory, and developing basic self-control.
We want to provide you with a few tools to help nurture the building blocks needed for healthy attachment, academia, physical health / wellbeing, social skills, interconnection, and resiliency. The following handout series from developingchild.harvard.edu, developed with support from the LEGO Foundation, provides suggestions for games and play-based activities based on a child’s age. The activities for younger children are designed for adults to engage in with children. Activities for later ages allow the adults to step back, enabling children’s independence to blossom as they transition to playing more often with peers.
Engaging and interacting with your children helps build the four essential qualities found in healthy parent-child relationships:
Structure: The adult, the leader in the relationship, creates organization and predictability for the child which communicates safety
Nurture: The adult provides caring that can calm and soothe the child in a manner that makes them feel good physically and emotionally
Engagement: The adult is present in a manner that the child experiences being seen, heard, felt, and accepted
Challenge: The adult supports the child in the acquisition and mastery of new skills, enhancing the child’s sense of competence and confidence
For older children, Bessel van der Kolk, MD from the Trauma Research Foundation recommends the book Parenting with Theraplay®: Understanding Attachment and How to Nurture a Closer Relationship with Your Child (Theraplay(r) Books & Resources) by by Helen Rodwell (Author), Vivien Norris (Author), Miranda Smith (Illustrator), Phyllis Booth (Foreword), Dafna Lender (Foreword) on Amazon.
"Theraplay - a pioneering application of attachment theory to clinical work - helps parents learn and practice how to provide the playful engagement, empathic responsiveness, and clear guidance that lead to secure attachment and lifelong mental health in their children. This third edition of the groundbreaking book Theraplay shows how to use play to engage children in interactions that lead to competence, self-regulation, self-esteem, and trust. Theraplay's relationship-based approach is uniquely designed to help families facing today's busy and often chaotic lifestyle challenges form joyful, loving relationships."
At Youth Home, each of our patients have varying degrees of Trauma and subsequent Mental Illness/Behavioral Disorders. We treat:
- Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD/ADD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Our Child and Adolescent psychiatric programs are designed to treat the needs of each individual child. Many of our children have experienced many more ACEs in their lives than we would have wished for them.
The term “ACEs” is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It originated in a groundbreaking study conducted in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and the Kaiser Permanente health care organization in California. In that study, “ACEs” referred to three specific kinds of adversity children faced in the home environment—various forms of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. The key findings of dozens of studies using the original ACEs data are:
- ACEs are quite common, even among a middle-class population: more than two-thirds of the population report experiencing one ACE, and nearly a quarter have experienced three or more.
- There is a powerful, persistent correlation between the more ACEs experienced and the greater the chance of poor outcomes later in life, including dramatically increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, smoking, poor academic achievement, time out of work, and early death. (Learn more at https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/aces-and-toxic-stress-frequently-asked-questions/)
We've studied and adopted the Trauma Informed Care approach based on our understanding of the effects of ACEs. This approach offers each patient the opportunity to engage more fully in their health care, develop a trusting relationship with their provider, and improve resiliency and long-term health outcomes. The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. Family therapy is a useful tool to initiate this between patients and caretakers, and while we never try to replace a parental figure in the lives of our patients, we do model healthy interactions for them. These relationships provide the personalized responsiveness, scaffolding, and protection that buffer children from developmental disruption. They also build key capacities—such as the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate behavior—that enable children to respond adaptively to adversity and thrive. This combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building, and positive experiences is the foundation of resilience.
Source Information from:
Vroom (2022). Vroom Printable Materials. Retrieved from https://www.vroom.org/vroom-materials?tab=Vroom%20Tip%20Sheets&materialSet=vroom-tips-for-stressful-times-0-5-set.
Center on the Developing Child (2018). ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
Center on the Developing Child (2022). Brain-Building Through Play: Activities for Infants, Toddlers and Children. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
Center on the Developing Child (2015). Resilience. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
TED Talks (2021). How Every Child Can Thrive by 5. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/molly_wright_how_every_child_can_thrive_by_five.