Monday, January 27, 2014

Who's The Boss?

How often do you get to be the boss?  I asked a 5 year old this question and her reply was “Not ever!”  How delighted she was when I was able to tell her that “in here, you get to be the boss” as I escorted her to my playroom.  

Think about the life of a child.  It’s true that they never (or rarely) get to be the boss.  They are told when to get up in the morning, when and what they can eat, when to go to school, when to do their homework, what to wear, what time they have to go to bed, etc.  They basically have very few choices of their own.  And when things in their world fall apart (parents fight or divorce, a death occurs in either a pet or someone they know, their teacher isn’t nice to them, their house gets flooded in a bad storm, they get yelled at repeatedly by someone...) they have nowhere to go to find answers that will comfort them.  That’s why the playroom is so helpful in the life of a child.  

In the playroom, a child feels important.  The messages we provide to children are:  “I’m here; I hear you; I care; and I understand.”  No matter what is going on in a child’s world, being able to be the boss for 30 minutes works wonders in their life.  Play is a vitally important activity for children.  Not just play itself, but their ability to choose what they want to do in their play.  Being allowed to ‘be the boss’ lets them know that whatever they want to do is important.  They can make a total mess if they want, they can throw things if they want, they can pretend to be a powerful warrior if they want, they can pretend to be a famous singer if they want...and the list goes on.  I’ve been allowing children to ‘be the boss’ for over 21 years, yet I am still amazed at the power it has to help a child heal from whatever life has thrown at them.  

When is the last time you allowed a child to ‘be the boss’?  If only for a few minutes, it will enhance your relationship with that child.  Even if the child makes a complete mess, it will be well worth the time and effort you put into it.  Try it sometime.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Let's Pretend...

Pretend:  To make believe; to imagine and act out.  This is a word that many children don’t get to hear anymore.  A few weeks ago I found myself saying this word to a four year old boy as I was verbally tracking him in the playroom.  He has had a pretty tough life.  Mom and dad are divorced and he’s an only child caught in the middle of their feuding.  He looks forward to coming to play with me.  On this particular day, he was sitting in front of the miniature house as he moved the family members up and down the stairs.  He found a tiny popcorn box and said he was going to eat some popcorn. I told him that I loved to pretend to eat popcorn. He moved to the kitchen and started to ‘cook’.  I told him to be careful not to ‘burn’ himself on the stove.  He was having so much fun as he pretended to cook some food.  As he came up with ideas, I would go along with them as I joined him in his pretend world.  The smile on his face warmed my heart. 

A few years ago I had another small boy come into the playroom.  He looked around for a bit, then he asked me where my TV was.  I told him, “In here, we use something called our imagination.”  He replied, “Aw man, this is boring.” He was disappointed because all he knew to play with were his electronic gadgets.  After about 5 minutes, his imagination kicked in and he pretended to be a big monster. He put his feet into the large monster slippers and put on the monster gloves.  After finding a monster mask and adding a hat, he was having the time of his life.  From then on, he never again asked about anything electronic.  He had learned how to pretend.

Children need to have times when they are allowed to pretend and create the world they want.  This is what they are able to do when they attend play therapy.  When the world they live in is upsetting for them, they can come and create a make believe world where everything is better, where everyone gets along, where they are powerful, where they can protect themselves with toy swords, and where they can enjoy some relaxing play with an adult who spends the entire time focused on them.

If you have the privilege of being around children, don’t forget how to pretend with them.  It will totally make your day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tired of going in circles?

Many times we find ourselves making the same mistakes over and over again.  We try different approaches, we ask our friends for advice, we read self help books, etc.  But nothing seems to change. So we get discouraged and start to lose hope that things will ever change.

In the Bible, the Israelites found themselves in much the same predicament when they had been wandering in the desert for 40 years.  I'm sure they were growing tired of literally going in circles.  Do you know what God said to them in the midst of their frustration?  In Deuteronomy 2:3, God said, "You have circled this mountain long enough.  Now turn north."

That is about the best advice I've ever heard.  Now turn north.  What does that mean in our lives?  It means to look North (to God).  Seek His wisdom in making the changes you need to make in your life.  Read the Bible daily. Start attending a Bible study.  Join an online Bible study.  Pray more.  Go to a Bible teaching church regularly.  When you begin to focus more on God, you find that His focus has been on you all along.  He wants to help you but He won't help us if we don't ask Him to.

I've counseled many people over the last 21 years.  Many of them were going in circles and looking for answers.  I'm supposed to provide the answers.  When I point people to the Answer, their problems become smaller and they have more peace.

A little over five years ago, I lost my husband suddenly to cancer.  Cancer was literally diagnosed 3 weeks before he died.  We were all very shocked and numb over this.  My daughter was a freshman in college and my son was a freshman in high school.  I did not have a clue how to navigate this new course my life had taken.  I also had counseling clients depending on my wisdom.  I didn't have time to wallow in my new status as a 'widow'.  What did I do?  I turned North.  I clung to God like a small child clings to daddy's legs.  I bought a Chronological Bible and started reading it every day.  I prayed for wisdom and for help.  And I was at peace.  Looking back, I realize that for every little bump along the road, God had already been there ahead of me preparing the way.  My children are doing well.  And I remarried last year.  God is so very good to us.

So I ask again:  "Are you going in circles in your life?"  My advice to you is "Now Turn North."