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"A lot of families are scared": how play therapy is helping to support children with trauma during coronavirus

Wednesday 25 November 2020
Father with arm around teenage son sitting on the sofa together

Sian is a play therapist for Action for Children in Wales. Her work helps children who have experienced trauma to express their feelings. She's making sure they keep getting this support during the pandemic

Sian supports children who have experienced trauma to express their feelings through play. Due to coronavirus, she's been unable to see children face to face - but she's been adapting her work so that she's still able to support those who need her.

“Through play therapy, we are able to look beyond the behaviour to see what they’re trying to communicate," says Sian. "I don’t tell parents what has been said but share with them the themes of play the child is showing, for example rescue, punishment, loss, abandonment.

“I usually work with children in schools, and as soon as the news came in that schools were closing and I would no longer be able to support children face to face, I knew it was vital to continue supporting the children as well as their families.

A lot of families I work with lack a support network and have now lost that daily contact.

Sian

“A lot of the families are scared. They’re really scared. The first week felt a bit like a holiday; everything was calm and it was just like they were coming off early for Easter. Then reality set in. A lot of families I work with lack a support network and have now lost that daily contact, people that you might have a chat with on the school run and offload about a manic morning, but wouldn’t be talking to outside of that. That is why it is so important we keep some type of support for them.

“I am not tech savvy, so needed to learn how to deliver play therapy via video link and fast. I have set a room up in my house with the toys and activities they are familiar with and start off by showing them round the room, so they know that it is still confidential. Most of the children have been brilliant, they’re just picking up their play themes from where they left off when we last met face to face, even though they’re using different tools and equipment.

I am not tech savvy, so needed to learn how to deliver play therapy via video link and fast.

Sian

“I decided to put together a play pack to send out to the families I support. It will be similar to the toys I use with them face to face and I will have the same resources so they can include me in their play if they wish.

“Action for Children have been great in how quickly we have been able to change what we’re doing to carry on supporting families. Most of them have additional worries, for example caring for relatives as well as being furloughed, going onto Universal Credit and temporarily closing businesses. It’s stressful for us all and we haven’t been through trauma. If you’re already recovering from a trauma it can be much, much worse”.