Lying and Stealing: Whose Problem Is It?
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When children present in play therapy with developmentally age-appropriate problems, parents' reactions can sometimes exacerbate the problems. While children need good therapeutic care, and their behaviors may need attention and limit-setting, it is also essential to help parents grasp the larger context of their children's states. Parents' understanding can reduce their reactivity and help prevent scapegoating of children. Furthermore, attention to root-level problems helps parents to gain insight into how their own life issues are stirring up, and how their growing awareness will benefit the child. Daniel Siegel referred to such holistic mindfulness on the part of parents as "mindful parenting" (Siegel & Hartzell, 2003). The following case study demonstrates how Mindfulness Based Play-Family Therapy (MBPFT) integrates play therapy, family therapy, mindful parenting, and child development theory (Higgins-Klein, 2013).
Case Study - The Child and His Family
Nathan, now eight years old, had been coming to therapy for the past three months because of his anxiety. Though both parents dated Nathan's anxiety back to his infancy, they had not reached out for help until his dishonest behaviors emerged at age eight. His school referred him after he stole candy from another child's backpack. Prior to this event, his parents had been afraid to get help for Nathan because they worried that having therapy might label him. During the initial four-session evaluation with the parents, I learned background information. Nathan was biting his nails, pulling out his eyebrows, and having difficulty expressing feelings. Nathan's mother, Sarah, had suffered anxiety all of her life and also bit her nails, while his father, Alex, was more laid back at home, despite his high-pressured job. They conceived Nathan after a year of medical interventions to assist conception. As the only child in the family, he received a lot of caring attention from his parents. I learned from the developmental history that he had seemed anxious even as an infant, when he would not sleep during the day and wanted to be held most of the time. His mother had intended to return to work when he was six months old, but believed that no one would be willing to give such a fussy baby the care that she gave him. She postponed her career until he was three years old. During that time, she found that she was happy staying home.
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