Everyone in the theatre including parents and children clapped enthusiastically as Ganesha (in movie Bal Ganesha) showed his superior intelligence and circled his parents three times instead of taking three rounds around the world and won the race against his younger brother. Little do we realize that, this mythology not only demonstrates the intelligence of Ganesha but in fact portrays how a child views his world and what is his emotional state? For every child, parents are the center of his / her existence and therefore a divorce or loss of a parent is experienced as a threat to his survival itself. They try out various options to survive this trauma, one of them being trying to work out solutions to reunite their parents. Sometimes they do not give up hope of reuniting their parents for years after the separation. Parents who are anyways struggling to deal with their own emotions find it extremely difficult to deal with those of the children. They ask questions which seem impeccably correct putting the parents in a spot. “But why does he not like you? Maybe if you work hard and become smarter and thin, the way he wants you to, we can be together,” says a 7 year old boy to his mother. Or a 10 year old girl to her father “Why can’t you forgive her, maybe she did not mean the things she said to you. You forgive me every time I have lied, can’t you forgive her? For my sake please?”
In most cases the children tend to feel responsible for the divorce and try to change the behaviour and actions to please the other parent, like this 6 year old boy pleads to his mother, “lets go back home, I promise I will not make him angry and bother him for toys ever again or change the TV channels.” At times, in their attempt to get back the parents together, they may even get into negative behaviours such as lying, running away from home, cooking up stories, poor academic performance, and bedwetting, being irresponsible and stubborn etc. This problem is exaggerated if the child is very young and unable to communicate; or if he is entering his teens and feels confused and threatened about the volatile emotions characteristic of this age. Unable to deal with this confusion and inability to express their distress, children learn to bottle up emotions and thoughts.
But they can communicate, through the language, language of play. Play being a natural mode of communication of children, children use play powerfully to better emote their feelings rather than talk about them. It also provides an emotional distance to the children necessary to express threatening and negative emotions and thoughts. Thus through the use of play, we can reach out to both the younger children and the teenagers alike. Unfortunately this is a language that we as parents, have long forgotten and need to relearn it in order to understand what our child is feeling to help them.
This play way is used by a therapist trained in Play therapy to help children and parents understand and deal with their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It aims to increase resilience and self esteem within each child enabling him / her to use this as a springboard to deal with difficulties in real world more confidently and to bridge the communication and emotional gap created by the trauma.