Too young for counselling?
People have various ideas surrounding counselling but a common image that is conjured up is one of two people sat in chairs facing each other, having a very deep conversation! Whilst this image has a lot of truth in it, it's difficult to see how a child of 8 years old, who loves to play football and can't sit still for longer than 5 minutes could ever find counselling helpful. So can counselling be helpful for the very young - for those who are still at primary school? Is it true that some are just too young for counselling?
I work as a children's and young people's counsellor and I would say the answer is definitely, "No!" The idea that counselling has to be done in the way just mentioned is simply not true. For a child, young person and even in adults, counselling needn't be about words.
Counselling is about allowing whoever comes to a session express and work through whatever is happening inside them in a way that is helpful. For some people, this will mean speaking with someone. For a child who may well not have the words to express themselves this may happen through play or creative work. It's up to the counsellor to provide a space that feels safe for the child to express themselves and work through their difficulties.
Here's a few examples of how it may work:
A child trying to sort through their feelings surrounding their parents' separation may chose to play with a dolls house. They may rearrange the furniture and people as they internally work out the changes in their own home life. As time progresses they become happier with the arrangement of the dolls house as they also become more settled with their own changed family.
Another child who, due to circumstance, has had to grow up too quickly, may become immersed in using tactile art materials - engaging in play that is associated with a earlier stage of child development. Through the "younger play" they meet the needs that have previously been unmet and are subsequently able to move on. Another child suffering from anxiety may play with sand, finding it a form of self-soothing for the anxious feelings within.
Since I began my training up until today I have witnessed and heard of countless examples of children's counselling making a huge difference in lives. Like all forms of counselling, there are no miracle cures or guarantees but time and again I have seen children come into sessions, use various play and art materials and then over time, out in the big wide world, change is gradually seen.
Finally, a few quotes to finish with:
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” – Friedrich Froebel
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato
So if you think your child is too young for counselling, do think again. Find a qualified children's counsellor or play therapist and allow your child to work through their difficulties in their way. If you have any questions about children's counselling, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
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