Children often find it harder to communicate what it is that’s troubling them. Some people seem to think that working with children is not ‘real’ counselling, but in actual fact, we use a lot of the same skills, as well as some extra ones.
Thankfully the days are gone where people believed that ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Children do have problems and they do worry about things. And if we can give them the space and voice to make themselves heard, then some of those worries can be dealt with before they become bigger, full blown, adult problems.
One of the biggest differences in working with children and young people is that quite often they haven’t self-referred, it’s not their choice to be there. So, the first thing we need to do when working with children, is to create an environment or safe space where they can be themselves without feeling this judgment. It is sometimes easier for the counsellor to accept and like them for what they are because ‘it’s not personal’.
Older children might well be happy to talk, but for some, playing provides a safe space to explore life. By using play, children can deflect what is happening in their own lives, to what is happening to the toys. This keeps it at a safe distance, and in doing this, they are actually telling someone their story, but without the need to verbalise it. Because for some children, naming fears and worries is really quite difficult. So, my personal hope overall, is that by working with children we can break the cycle and end up with adults who are better equipped to deal with life and the challenges ahead.