What is Theraplay® and how does it help children with attachment difficulties to connect with their parents and carers?

TheraplayVivien Norris and Helen Rodwell discuss what Theraplay is, how it works and why it is such an easy yet powerful tool for helping children with attachment difficulties to emotionally connect with their parents and carers. This extract is taken from their new book, Parenting with Theraplay®, and is preceded by a foreword from Dafna Lender, Programme Director of The Theraplay® Institute. Their book is a simple guide for parents which explains everything you need to know about Theraplay, with practical tips to apply it to everyday family life.

Click here to read the extract

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Take a look at our new Early Years catalogue

Our Early Years books offer valuable, jargon-free advice on a range of important issues in the field for any setting. From practical guides on positive learning environments to information on running your own successful Early Years business, each publication provides essential support and easy-to-follow activities to help you deliver the EYFS and enhance your practice.

If you would like to request a free print copy of the catalogue, please email hello@JKP.com.

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Join our Early Years mailing list to receive a free copy of our new catalogue

Early years resourcesSign up to our mailing list to receive a free copy of our new Early Years catalogue.

Our Early Years books offer valuable, jargon-free advice on a range of important issues in the field for any setting. From practical guides on positive learning environments to information on running your own successful Early Years business, each publication provides essential support and easy-to-follow activities to help you deliver the EYFS and enhance your practice.

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10 ready-to-use solutions that will help schools meet Ofsted criteria for excellent playtimes

playtimesMichael Follett, author of Creating Excellence in Primary School Playtimes, provides 10 tips to help primary schools meet Ofsted criteria for excellent playtimes.

Imagine childhood without play. It sounds unthinkable but for around 50% of UK children school playtimes are the only time they get to play freely in an open space with their friends. When you think that out of 7 years at primary school, 1.4 of those years is time for play, it is clear that schools are ideally placed to enable children to access 180 days a year of great play opportunities.

As a former teacher, playworker and school improvement adviser I have dedicated the past 17 years to helping schools understand how to improve playtimes. It’s a great project as everyone wins, children are happier and healthier, teachers get more teaching time, leaders more leading time and playtime staff a much more satisfying job. So here are my top ten tips, condensed from my work developing the OPAL Primary Programme with over 200 schools in three continents.

1. Change your culture – A school that values play is a school that understands that play is essential to children’s physical and mental wellbeing and that the recipe for play requires some dirt, some risk, plenty of choices, quite a lot of freedom and a growing amount of trust. Once your school develops a culture of valuing play and understanding the simple conditions it requires to grow and flourish the rest is relatively easy.

2. Use what you have – OPAL’s research has revealed that the average primary school uses its field for between 8-16% of the 180 days there are in the school year. If you have space, don’t spend money on equipment until you find ways to use your valuable space for at least 80% of the year. (OPAL School’s average around 95%).

3. Put someone in charge – Good play in a school takes planning, resources and persistence. 20% of the school day will not improve itself. Traditionally schools dedicate very little leadership attention to the management of what is often the trickiest part of the school day to manage.

4. Be Generous – How many children are in your school – 100, 200, maybe 500? How many hours play is that a year? In a school of 200 children the answer is 160,000 play hours a year. So be generous – don’t build one play house build ten, don’t put in a sand table, build a beach! Children need lots of space and lots of stuff to avoid conflict at playtimes and access to plenty of fuel for their imaginations.

5. Make use of free stuff – Children much prefer to play with stuff than on things. They don’t really mind what you give them to play with, they just need lots of it. So don’t worry about asking the PTA to raise thousands to build a thing to play on, instead think about how you can provide children with many, many things to play with. We are not talking about toys, we are talking about the secret magic ingredients of play called loose parts, which is virtually anything you can think of that is safe enough to play with, from and empty box to an old pan or a bit of wood.

6. Use Nature – Nature changes every day, it re-grows, it is naturally calming and attractive to children. Instead of a play catalogue why not go to a garden centre and see what resources they have that would provide lots of open ended play value?

7. Provide Choices – What is the essence of play? It is surely the freedom to choose for yourself. To be able to decide for your own reasons and motivations where you go, who you play with and what you play with. Look around your playground. Is it an oasis of potential choices waiting to be discovered? The more variety on offer, the more freedom of choice actually means something.

8. Allow time – Play is a human right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 31 and every school has a legal and moral duty to implement the convention. So don’t regard playtime as a problem to be whittled away or used up with finishing work, but as an opportunity to provide an essential part of a good childhood.

9. Don’t waste your money – Children will always be attracted by newness, so any play equipment, however poor its play value, will be investigated by children for the first six weeks of its presence, but children are around school play equipment for around 1800 hours a year, for several years and it is only worth investing in capital equipment which will continue to present interest and challenge, building strength, fitness and coordination over a number of years, otherwise you are just buying very expensive benches to hang-out on.

10. Keep it up – Providing great play for every child should be the concern of every adult who cares about quality of childhood, because making play better in schools is not up to children, it is up to us the decision makers and power holders, the leaders, staff and parents. We are the people who are in charge; of their time, and their space, and the rules. Governments are not, and children cannot make us provide for their play, it must be done because we ourselves care about children having fun, joy and happiness.

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What are the different forms of bullying and what strategies can be used to overcome the problem?

bullyingMichael Panckridge, co-author of Be Bully Free, takes a look at the different forms that bullying can take and suggests strategies that victims of bullying can adopt to overcome the problem.

Bullying is about power and the perceived need to gain dominance over another person either physically, intellectually, socially or emotionally. Research into the effect of bullying behaviour indicates that not only does it produce negative short-term psychological problems, but can also affect a person well into their adult life and even lay the foundations for significant and ongoing emotional health problems. Sometimes the bullying is overt and immediate. However, in many cases, the bullying is low-key and ‘hidden’, and the recipient may not be aware of it immediately.  Initially the recipient may think it is their own behaviour that is causing the bullying – that there is something wrong with them or what they do. When this happens, the recipient of the bullying tends to avoid being with other people and they use strategies to escape. This may include avoiding school, which can signal the start of school refusal. Continue reading

Counsellors working with young people often find it can feel like messy, complex work. What helps when counsellors are stuck?

counsellorNick Luxmoore, author of Practical Supervision for Counsellors who Work with Young People, explores the positive impact that good supervision sessions can have on counsellors who are struggling to break down barriers with young people in their care.

It’s Nikki’s first day as a counsellor and she’s about to see four young people. “Help!” she says, panicking. “What am I supposed to do?” Elsewhere, the girl Stephanie’s been seeing for counselling has ripped up a box of tissues and stormed out of the room, Marvin’s complaining that his counselling waiting list is getting longer and longer, and all the young people at Maggie’s school appear to be cutting themselves or feeling suicidal….

However experienced or inexperienced they may be, all professional counsellors are obliged to have regular meetings with a supervisor: someone with whom they can untangle the “stuckness” that develops in their thinking and relationships. Most are only too glad of the facility and most counsellors are able to choose their supervisor, someone who may or may not already have experience of working with young people. Continue reading

Tips for promoting young children’s wellbeing

Young children's wellbeing

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton, author of Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing, provides some very useful and easy tips for supporting young children’s happiness at this important stage in their development.

Wellbeing is a term we hear a lot about for adults and young people, but we don’t hear so much about it for young children. We know that the rates of teenage mental health problems are rising alarmingly, and we are aware that children and young people are feeling increasingly stressed and distressed. I passionately believe if we can help young children to have a good wellbeing then we are setting them off to a great start in life. But to help children have a good wellbeing, we need to be proactive about it.

One critical aspect of a child having good wellbeing is by them knowing that they are loved – that they are loved for the unique and precious individuals they are. Parents and grandparents clearly have a crucial role in letting children know that they are unconditionally loved, but I also believe that key workers, teaching assistants, children’s workers also have a role in showing children that they are loved and wanted. We show this through the words we use and the way we hold children. Part of my job is as a nurture consultant; I have seven children and schools that I support throughout the year. Every time I see one of my nurture children I ensure I show delight in seeing them that day. I smile at them, I look them in the eyes and tell them how lovely it is to see them today, how much I have been looking forward to our time together. Continue reading

How to compile a life story book for an adopted or fostered child

life story booksJoy Rees, author of Life Story Books for Adopted and Fostered Children, gives her advice on how best to compile a life story book for an adopted or fostered child.  Working chronologically backwards rather than forwards, she explains how such a format reinforces the child’s sense of security and promotes attachment.

A Life Story Book tells the story of the child’s life and is often described as an ‘essential tool’ to help the child gain a sense of identity and an understanding of his or her history. This was the emphasis when I wrote the first edition of this book, Life Story Books for Adopted Children, – A Family Friendly Approach, some 10 years ago.

This approach evolved from my work with adoptive families, and from a growing awareness that most of the books I read at that time were simply not ‘fit for purpose’. The language used and the details given about the birth parents’ history was generally not appropriate or helpful. The books were just not child friendly. At best many of them were complex and confusing and it was difficult to follow the child’s story in them. At worse, some books inadvertently fed into the child’s sense of self-blame and shame about their early experiences. Others risked adversely affecting placement stability by impeding the vital claiming and belonging stages of the attachment process.

My approach to life story books had a different prospective.  They aimed to raise self-esteem and to promote trust and attachments with the primary carers, and emphasised the importance of incorporating plenty of positive subliminal messages, i.e. that the child is lovable, loved and valued, before helping him or her to understand and process the early history.

These key messages are reinforced in the updated book, Life Story Books for Adopted and Fostered Children. As the title reflects, the approach has been expanded and contains links to sample books not only for children who are adopted (into a range of different circumstances such as transnational adoption), but also for those in long term foster placements or living with kinship carers or Special Guardians. The suggested format, present – past – present – future, is appropriate for all of these children.

Here are some tips for compiling a life story book:

  • It must to be an honest account but ‘child-friendly’ – social work jargon should be avoided.
  • It should be appealing and colourful and contain scanned photographs and clip-art
  • It can be divided into short sections so that it can be shared in ‘bite-sizes’
  • It should engage the child by gently and playfully inviting him or her into their story
  • Writing in the 3rd person is generally more appropriate for young children
  • Positive subliminal messages should be threaded throughout the story
  • It should be a celebration of the child’s life and leave him or her with a sense of a positive future

Suggested format:

Present:

The book should not start with the child’s birth and the birth family. It should begin with the child now and the current primary attachment figures – adopter, permanent foster carer or Special Guardian. Information should be fun and non-threatening. Include details of child’s hobbies, interest, talents, the current home and family, friends, pets, nursery or school before moving into the child’s early history.

Past:

Begin this section with factual details of the child’s birth: date, place, time, day, weight, length, origins of name, if known. With increased use of social networking sites be wary of including surnames or previous addresses. Consider the risks. This information can be given at a later stage, when then child is considered mature enough to make a more informed decision about tracing and contact.

Introduce the birth mother and birth father if known, and again, if the book is for an adopted child, it is best to use the first names only, with age, description, ethnic origin, religion, health, interests and employment. Details of siblings and any other significant family member would also be included here.

Remember, the book is the story of the child’s life, and not the birth parent’s lives, so do not overwhelm them with too many details. The child should not have to own the birth parents’ troubled history.

There should be an accurate but simple account of events leading to the placement in foster care. The underlying message for the child needs to be that ‘None of this was your fault!’. Give details of foster carers. If a child has gone through more than one placement, provide an explanation for each move, emphasising that this was not because the child was ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’.

A simple account of the decisions made by the social workers, police or judge should be given. There is no need to list all of the conferences and meetings or give dates. This is too confusing for a young child and could detract from their understanding of their story.

Present:

The book should bring the child back to present with meeting their permanent family, and moving into their current home. Include Court Hearings and details of the Care Order, Special Guardianship Order and, if applicable, Adoption Order and Celebratory Hearing. A sense of permanency or ‘the forever family’ could now be reinforced.

But do not end the book here.

Future:

Give the child a sense of a hopeful future. Mentioning family rituals, familiar routines and adding more family photographs are grounding and can strengthen the child’s sense of belonging. Include family plans, perhaps a holiday or the child’s hopes and aspirations. End on a positive note and by reminding the child that wherever they go and whatever they do they will always be loved, are part of this family and will always be in the adopters’ or carers’ thoughts.

Having a sense of one’s history is important, but to enable children to move forward to the positive futures they deserve, this alone is not enough. A sensitively written book can lay the foundation for healthy attachments with the primary carers and can reinforce a sense of belonging and security. It can raise self-esteem and help the child to feel loveable, loved and valued.

These are the aspects that truly make a Life Story Book a powerful and ‘essential tool’.

If you would like to read more articles like Joy’s and  hear the latest news and offers on our Adoption and Fostering books, why not join our mailing list or like our Adoption and Fostering Facebook page? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

The musical nature of human communication

musical-nature-human-communicationRhythm of Relating

by Stuart Daniel

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (it was the nineties in Edinburgh) I enjoyed getting painted red and drumming like wild-fire with a group of people dedicated to festival and having serious amounts of fun. The festival nights we drummed were a culmination of many hours spent in connection through shared rhythm. There’s a collective space we would enter, a space known to any rhythm musician, where time goes strange, the group hums with a new electricity and unity glows.”

 

Sometime last year, as a play therapist, I was working with an eleven year-old boy. We had been hanging out for four sessions. The boy had a lot to be angry about and, up until this point our connection had been defined by me (almost as a by-stander) attempting to help him feel safe and contained as he expressed this angry momentum. I remember feeling disconnected. Not obviously, but somewhere in a quiet place inside where the chance for melancholic sadness has a chance to grow. In this particular session, session five, the boy had given our punch-bag a name and was beating it with hands and then foam swords. I stuck with him, joining in, empathising with body, gesture, a few words. After a while the energy of his angry impetus faded a little and he more casually struck with the swords. I had some insider information here! I knew the boy was learning, and loved, to drum. I started playing an off-beat to his strikes, and then switched things around a little. He matched perfectly and, after a few iterations, developed too. We played in-sync like this for a while until the energy of the room changed colour. The boy became quiet, lay down on the fallen punch-bag, and moved on to a series of mother-baby play scenes of a fresh, gentle, powerful quality completely different from before. I remember being delighted, moved, and consciously thinking, “has he been reading our book?”.  Continue reading

How can music therapy help children with special needs? Read an extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies

music-therapy-children-special-needsHow can rhythm and musicality help therapists be in sync with children with special needs who find communication and depth challenging?

What is rhythm for these children? And for their therapists?

In this extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s TherapiesFrom Cocoon to Butterfly: Music Therapy with an adopted girl, Dr Cochavit Elefant takes us into her two and a half years journey of music therapy with little Noa, showing us how through musical and verbal interplay they could go from distance to closeness and from chaos to self-control.

Click here to read the extract

“Noa was two and a half years old when I first met her: a beautiful, lively girl with long dark hair and wide open brown eyes. She was brought to music therapy by her adopted mother with the complaint that Noa was hitting, biting and pushing children at her nursery school.” continue reading

In Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies, Stuart Daniel and Colwyn Trevarthen invite each contributor to have fun exploring their own interpretation of this title and to share their particular ways to phase in-sync with vulnerable children and create rhythms of connection.

If you would like to read more articles like this, hear the latest news and offers on our Arts Therapies books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.