We all know that being around challenging children is HARD. Being involved in their lives means that we have a significant role we are playing – and yet it can sometimes mean we think that to be doing a good job we have to keep it all together and not let others know how hard we are finding it. We can be honest – but only a bit…
I wrote this several years ago, when Hinton was 9 months old. I wrote it for me and never intended to share it – but have decided I would, in case it resonates with anyone else out there doing significant work and finding it HARD right now.
HINTON DIARY – 9 Months
“So I cried today in a room of women and four-legged furry beauties. Why? I was done.
‘My furry boy’ is a real challenge at the moment – in ways that no one knows if they just look at him. In fact if you just look at him, you would say how gorgeous he is, and you would want to touch him (EVERYONE wants to touch him).
You would have no idea about what it is really like living with him at the moment. The stubbornness, the independence, the inescapable attraction for anything new, how unbelievably strong he is when he wants something, and then there is the sensitive tummy, sensitive temperament and unpredictable VERY mushy toileting.
My ‘boy’ is 9 months old and a real conundrum in so many ways. I’m not just saying it. He has had his trainer scratching her head more than once.
We went to our regular socialisers puppy class today.
It was clear to the trainer as soon as we arrived, that I needed some extra support and I didn’t deny it.
The trainer took him and I sat there with tears pouring down my face. Exhausted. It turns out that some dogs are like this when they hit teenage stage. It turns out that they are not all this hard, but some are. It turns out that in some ways he is very normal. It turns out that in some ways he is very different, and not all the standard ‘normal’ approaches are helpful for him.
It was lovely for them all to notice and comment on the good bits they see in him (he can do rocking sits and downs when he has a mind to, waits and stays are there too, and I think the stories of how he now copes with being handled, poked and prodded which he totally HATED a few months ago, actually really impressed them).
And that is it, the conundrum. He is not all bad. Not by a long shot. I wouldn’t swap him for any of the other pups. He is ‘my boy’ [for now] and we are going to work this through together, we will both be changed by it, and come through wiser.
That is where we are going. But to get there I needed today.
I needed to be around the wisdom of others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it is like being a puppy socialiser.
I needed to hear encouragement from others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it takes to be a puppy socialiser.
I needed to hear and receive affirmation of the good job I am doing with him from people who know the investment of time, energy and life it takes to train a pup like this.
I needed time out – even just a few minutes – of not being on the end of the lead, to regroup and get myself into a calm state again. Time to look at him from a different perspective and realise there was no other puppy in the room I would want to take home instead.
I needed to hear from people who are more experienced than me, that being at the end of myself did not mean I was a poor socialiser in anyway.
I needed to hear stories of the depths that others (who seemed to have it all together and appeared to know what they are doing) have been to with puppies they have socialised in the past – and to see one of them sitting there with the very same puppy, now calm and in control of himself, happy, snoozing and ready for the next stage of training.
And he needed time away from me. Right then, he needed time being handled by an expert. He needed support from someone who was calm and grounded, who could help him move on through those minutes in a positive way.
It takes a village to raise a child apparently. It surely takes a community to raise an assistance puppy.
So as I am writing, we are home now. He is asleep by my feet. Still gorgeous. Still a teenager. Still so much toddler.
Socializing an assistance puppy has to be up there with some of the hardest things I have ever done. But I’ve heard many parents say the same about parenting. I’ve heard many teachers say the same thing about teaching.
I am SO grateful for the support and expert training I have around me. While everyone wants to throw their two pennies worth of opinion at me – I know who I am choosing to listen to. I am learning so much about dogs, about people, about me, and I have chosen to change and grow through it all… Socialising my first assistance puppy IS an adventure and I’m not done yet.”
SO from one honest heart to another – let me ask you these 9 questions:-
Are you doing something significant?
From 1-10 how hard is it at the moment?
What is hard about it that no one else would know from the outside?
Do you compare yourself with others who appear to have it all together?
Who would you need to hear positives from to really receive and believe what they are saying?
When was the last time you had ‘time out’ away from those children?
What are the specific positives or developments that you can see are still in your children, even in the midst of a challenging phase?
What emotional support do you need?
What specific expert support do you need?
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So you want to train to be a play therapist? Really? There are a few things you should know, that none of the play therapy training materials will tell you. Firstly, you will likely develop a life-long penchant for ‘collecting’ miniature items from shops, car boots, friends children’s toy collections, holiday destinations, and anywhere else. Secondly, you will develop a ninja-level ability to get the phrase “I wonder” into any conversations Thirdly, you will never be the same again.
The first 2 we can smile about. They will impact your bank balance, your storage space and your conversation skills, but apart from that they are relatively insignificant 🙂 (actually #2 is very significant, but that’s for another day…) The third point is the one we really need to talk about.
Therapists are nice people on the whole. They want to help others. They want to make the world a better place. They want to see growth and healing and nice things… Yes? So training to be a therapist – even a playing one, has got to make you a nicer person…yes? So how is it that so many people who go through the training to become play therapists end up (albeit often a few years later) splitting up with their partners? Yes this is true. I don’t have official research statistics to prove this to you – just anecdotal numbers from the many courses I have been on or facilitated, and corroborated findings with others.
So here we go. Real-talk time coming up.
6 observations why play therapy training could be dangerous if you like things just the way they are.
1. One of the key elements about a good training to become a play therapist is being able to maintain boundaries for your client.
You cannot maintain good, strong and healthy boundaries for a child if you cannot do it for yourself first. Establishing and maintaining boundaries is something to be learnt, and often needs careful consideration and intention. Many people never consider this aspect of their lives. Many of the excellent play therapy training courses available, help students discover the dysfunctional patterns in their lives, they become aware of their own pain, and how they have developed ‘dances’ with others to get their child-hood, inner pain-based needs met. They learn about the importance of establishing healthy boundaries for protecting the precious.
2. Students discover whether they are still controlling situations, people or whole families to keep the boat from being rocked.
They discover if they are still hiding who they really are from people around them to keep the boat from being rocked. They discover why they really fear the boat actually being rocked and realise they are now big enough to handle the waves.
3. Trainees discover if their relationships are health-giving or health-sucking.
They discover they have a voice now as a grown-up, which may not have been used as a child. They discover that being a great therapist for a child means at times advocating for them. You cannot advocate for a child without using your voice, being seen and heard.
4. Journeying students discover how their subconscious speaks to them.
They realize things can change and the lies of being tiny, vulnerable, stuck and powerless they may have believed since childhood, can loose their power and truth can be established in their place. They discover healing and growth are possible – who they are – their very bodies – become messages of hope to the children they work with.
5. They discover if there is an appropriate level of self care in their lives or not.
They discover that who they are is the most important thing to a child. They discover that They. Are. Important. They understand that they can and should be doing more to nurture themselves in every way.
6. They discover that they have power and they learn to use it.
The one who will bring change and growth; enable them to live the truth of who they are, respectfully and with appropriate boundaries; in the lifestyle they need to nurture themselves, is themselves. For this they are responsible. The relationships they have will grow with them, become consciously changed or need to be released. [See above comments about relationships for evidence of how many relationships don’t seem to want to grow with them].
To be a therapist you have to grow. Therapists have to be able to be honest about who they are, why they are and what they want to do about that. To be a therapist you have to grow. To care for children in ways that keep you and them emotionally safe, means growing, learning, understanding yourself, your stuff, your pain-points, your healing, your boundaries and ability to defend and protect.
To work respectfully at these levels of responsibility, privilege and influence in a hurting child’s life, calls for health and growth and good condition. Hurting children in adult bodies are not safe practitioners in the therapy room, classroom or anywhere. To have a job working with children in any role DOES NOT require growth. To become an excellent, effective, influential and inspirational practitioner with children in any role and any setting requires growth ABSOLUTELY. To be a healthy, safe, vibrant ambassador and advocate for children does NOT mean you have to be a therapist. But then you don’t have to train as a play therapist to grow 😉
This just came in from one of the senior teachers I have been supporting. It is shared here with permission. Everyone’s story is different of course – and if you are curious to change yours then please get in touch.
“Hi there I just wanted to send you a few words that sum up what happened to me. I could have gone on about my visits to the GP, photographing my swollen joints and rashes so the GP didn’t think I was making things up, it’s quite funny now I’m ‘fixed’ – although it wasn’t at all funny at the time ….. Especially as it was also suggested at one point that my symptoms were psychosomatic… In 5 months I’ve forgotten how debilitating it can be to have:-
swollen joints that were so painful I couldn’t move them,
tendons that pulled my fingers in to make a claw,
and the need to stop driving to have a sleep on the way home from work.
When you work in a school it’s easy to think feeling unwell is an inevitable symptom of stress and part of getting older! But the changes I have experienced since taking the USANA products you recommended have shown me it’s not stress or getting older, it’s nutrition. I just wasn’t getting enough of what my body needed.
I noticed a difference within 2 days of taking the nutritional supplements. Honestly, for me it was that instant. I’m massively thankful. It is just so incredible to be several months on now and pain free, sleeping better than I ever have, waking up more easily and not needing to spend 15 mins in the shower every morning trying to make my eyes open. I have more energy and mental clarity and I know I am more ‘on my game’ at work than I have been in years. Thank you again.” Inclusion Manager
If you want to explore what might help you thrive then get in touch.
SO many of you will already know that after 10 years of continuous work as a children’s therapist, often working with very complex cases, I have been on a sabbatical from my direct clinical work. Have I been sitting around twiddling thumbs for the last year? Umm No. Much of the advisory, consultancy and training work has continued (albeit at a slower pace).
HOWEVER, I knew the lack of contact time with children would leave me some space mentally and emotionally… so for the last year I have been volunteering as a Puppy Socialiser for Dogs for Good. They are a fantastic charity training assistance dogs to help change peoples lives. I totally love what they are about, and although puppies are obviously gorgeous, I thought long and hard before getting involved as socialising a puppy is like long-term fostering…
My time with Hinton is not over yet, but already I have learnt so much about how to help puppies learn, grow and thrive in a way that feeds their body and soul. So much of what I have learnt about working with dogs has resonated with me as it is from the same philosophy I have been working from when working with children over all these years.
This is the first in a series of short videos (I don’t know how many more there will be yet – it largely depends on what you think of them!). I will share some of the insights I have around the similarities of working with dogs and children.
Hinton is big for his age. So are many children. And even those who are physically similar to their peers, may not be at the same emotional age. Have a watch and see what you think.
Have you come across this before?
Do you know children who struggle with being expected to be more mature than they are because of their size?
Do you know how to respond to a child who seems to not be as emotionally developed as they are physically?
I’d love to hear what you think about this – I think it happens more than we think. So let’s get the conversation going – feel free to scroll right down and comment below.
Also feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who might be helped by this in anyway. Hinton loves helping people… share his story and do let him know if he made a difference 😉
… And if you want to read another blog about this concept of physical and emotional age not correlating and one reason behind it, and what it looked like for a child I worked with then click here. Until next time… x
Before I get on with follow-up emails for everyone I saw this morning, I wanted to take a moment to write and officially thank you.
I want to thank you for the way you are choosing to lead your school.
Thank you for making time and allowing your staff to have access to training around Essential Health and Safety – thereal things everyone needs to know if they are working in a school.
Thank you for allowing them to have time and space to consider themselves in the busyness of school life, and especially end-of-term-itis.
Thank you too, for allowing me to provide initial, confidential follow-up chats with all those that wanted them – during school time.
I recognise that not many other schools out there are doing this, and yet you are making decisions based on your children’s best interests – and you understand that that inherently means the well-being of your staff first and foremost.
I know this way of working may seem like a somewhat ‘different’ approach, as many schools are expecting their staff to cope with the stress, manage themselves, be calm around the children, continue to function at a high level and all without the real information they need to understand HOW to do this.
Obviously what people choose to do with information is their own choice. I just want to acknowledge and thank you for giving your staff the chance to gain more understanding, and have wider choices around supporting their own resilience and well-being.
I thought you might like to know that these comments were all said to me in the 1:1s yesterday and today, or in emails since then:-
“I am so grateful to have this time to think about myself…”
“Just talking to you now I realise that….”
“What you were talking about the other day really connected with me, and I am so glad you are still here to help us with support if we want it – you haven’t just abandoned us.”
“I know it is time to make some changes…”
“That’s a really good idea – I think I could do that…”
“That other lady you were talking about last week…the teacher… I got all of that… she was just like me.”
“That quiz you gave us really made me stop and look at what is happening… what it is like for me.”
“Thank you so much for your time and help.”
“Thank you for spending the time with us all over the past couple of days – I know people have found the discussions valuable. ”
“After our talk I went home and had a really honest conversation with….”
“Thank you for your support – I already feel more positive.”
“Thank you for my session today. I really enjoyed chatting to you. I will have a look at the extra info you have sent me and be in touch asap to take the next step.”
We all know that who we are as people is what makes the biggest impact on the children. I am thoroughly grateful to be able to partner with a school like yours. Children, Health and Emotional Wellbeing ARE all connected and I know you understand this.
I look forward to the ongoing journey we will all make together.
All the best
Children, Health & Emotional Wellbeing…. because it’s all connected.
I don’t think I have ever shared direct words from any of my clients before. I have thought long and hard about doing it now, and the reason I am sharing what this incredible boy wrote as part of our closing process, was because HE wanted it shared. The idea that his experience can inspire school staff to know that children can change, was really important to him. The idea that others – even adults – who still find themselves journeying through PTSD, could be encouraged by his words and his journey was equally important.
“Since working with Claire I have changed in many different ways. I have changed the way I act around people. I have changed the way I see things. Everyday I think about how much Claire has helped me come to be who I always tried to be, how I don’t try to be any body, I don’t even try to be myself – I just be the person I am.
I used to say the words PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) like I had to say it or like I had to make everybody know that I have PTSD, however now I have changed. I no longer wear a badge that says ‘I have PTSD’ because I don’t. I am not ashamed of having had PTSD nor am I proud. I don’t think about PTSD and I havent even spoke about it in so long because I don’t need to anymore. I feel free from and unleashed from the horrible badge called PTSD.
My time with Claire has been an unforgettable experience and has been a roller coaster, not always easy and not always fun, but for sure it’s one of those one-time life-time changing experiences you just can’t say no to.”
Boy, aged 12,Shared with permission – as he hoped it might encourage others with PTSD that things can change.