Managing Changes

Change, change, change….. We are making a lot of changes around here at Play Therapy i.n.c. and we are excited to share our news with you. We are growing and expanding. We have added a new therapist to our team, welcome Matt Canale, RP. Plus, we have moved to a new suite here at 8 W. Dry Creek Circle to suite #220 which will include 4 treatment rooms, just down the hall from our current location. We have said good bye to our Masters Level Intern Molly Clarke and will welcome a new student in the fall. That is not all folks. Kelly Miller, LCSW, RPT/S is a new adjunct professor at University of Denver teaching the Mental Health Interventions with Young Children course. We couldn’t be more excited and thrilled. But let’s face it change and transition are difficult and sometimes down right messy. We are including some tips here on how to help manage change in families. Tips on Managing Change in Families:
  1. Talk about the known and unknown parts. As human beings one of our major stressors is the unknown. Whenever there is change there is lots of unknowns. Help prepare your children for change by letting them know who, what, when, where, and why things may be changing. Also, be honest about the parts that you don’t know. For example, we are moving to a new house (known) and we are not sure when it will happen (unknown).  Or I am starting a new job (known) so now Suzie Que will be take care of you after summer camp until I get home (known). I am not sure if she will pick you up from outside on the playground or inside (unknown).
  2. Provide lots of warnings. When we can prepare for change we can brace ourselves and our nervous systems. Meaning that we can reduce the overwhelm and challenging behaviors. Use calendars, schedules, pictures, to help children understand when changes will happen so they can anticipate it.
  3. Remember Behavior has a purpose and meaning. Change is most often accompanied by feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and fear. When we are operating out of a stressed or flooded response or what Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (2011) refers to as the ‘down stairs brain’ we are reactive and driven by emotions. This reactive state of the brain can lead our children and ourselves to engaging in challenging behaviors.  It is often helpful to name the underlying feelings that may be present when the challenging behavior arises. This really does 2 things, It helps calm the amygdala (emotion center of the brain) and also provides children with a model of verbalizing emotions.
  4. Avoid Questions. When children are using challenging behavior as an attempt to regulate an intense emotion like fear they can often be defensive and we can end up escalating the situation with questions. For example, when a child is hitting and screaming when being told it is time to leave for summer camp and we say, “Are you scared?” Sometimes the child will scream ‘NO!’ and the behavior will continue. If we try something like “It looks like your body is really angry right now I wonder if you are scared.” Or, “I can tell this is scary.” We are not adding more challenge by asking the already overwhelmed brain to answer a question. Plus we are naming the emotion which helps calm the amygdala.
“For a seed to achieve it’s greatest expression it much come completely undone. The shell cracks. It’s insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth it would look like complete destruction.” –Cynthia Occelli