Christine Kutzner M.Ed., RCC - Counselling Services

Parenting Matters Printable PDF version

Volume 23, May 2010

Greetings! May is spring time, May is Mother’s Day, and May means school ends soon!

I attended an interesting workshop last month on Hard to Heal Children. The presenter was Lorie Walton who uses attachment principles and theraplay when working with either adopted children or children who are in the foster care system. Last month I wrote about the concepts in this theory, and today I want to illustrate how parents of children and youth can apply some of these simple “touching games” when your relationship with your child has gone sour.

Hard to Heal Children - Part 2

Theraplay is a type of counseling that addresses emotional issues in children and youth through touch, laughter and play. It is most often used with children and youth who have been adopted, or who have been exposed to neglectful parenting. I am using the theraplay concepts and techniques with parents as a way to get your child to stop giving you the cold shoulder after a disagreement. The goal is to find a way to begin to repair your parent/child relationship from an attachment perspective, in a manner that will foster and promote healing vs. an authoritative style of parenting where there is a top down style of communicating.

Babies thrive emotionally when they are caressed and given lots of skin-to-skin contact. This kind of touching sends positive endorphins to the brain. When a parent and child have had a disagreement, or when there is anger or tension in the home because of a marriage break down or family crisis, one way to repair the parent/child relationship is by finding ways to get “close” to your child/youth. This can be done through touch or by being playful. If your child/youth is angry with you and refuses to be close to you, it makes your job as a parent a lot harder. Ultimately, it is the parent’s job to initiate connection. This demonstrates to your child/youth that you care enough about the relationship. Below are some ways to break the ice to begin to connect through touch.

Some Fun Ways To Get Physically Close to Your Child

The purpose is to use touch to break down the barrier of anger or resentment.

  • Thumb war, ruffle hair, hug the shoulders or arm wrestle
  • Running your finger down their spine
  • Giving high 5’s
  • Wrap a blanket around them when they’re watching TV
  • Put lotion on their hands and feet
  • Looking at a photo album together of happier times
  • Find things to pass to them and try to get a quick rub of their arm (like handing over laundry to them or a plate of food)

The human brain relates to gentle touch and will help to orientate the child/youth back to you, the parent. Use humour as well and don’t give up if your youth walks away from you. They are letting you know that they are angry and hurt and are struggling to “let go” of those feelings. Our job as parents is to nurture our children. Children learn to be kind and to love when there is an absence of fear in their lives. If the adults are arguing and there is a negative atmosphere in the home, children are learning to connect with others in a tentative way rather than assuming others are trustworthy, caring and dependable.

Once you have made a connection with your youth, you need to nurture the relationship. For example invite them to do an activity with you, bring them hot chocolate, or make their favorite dessert. Catch your teen being good and praise them. Help them achieve success by providing challenges that can be met like cell phone use, or curfew. Understand their need to fit in with their peers when it comes to dress or music and use humour!

Christine Kutzner Counselling Services 604-339-5774

Christine Kutzner, M.Ed. is a Registered Clinical Counsellor providing services to children, parents and families in North and West Vancouver. To inquire, contact Christine.

Copyright Christine Kutzner, 2010. All rights reserved.


Christine provides counselling services to children, parents, and
families in Vancouver, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.

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