by Mrs. Olga Mussington-Service, M.S.
Head Student Support Services Division
Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport
“These are stressful times” is a statement that I have heard so many people say. Sometimes, the word stressful is replaced by difficult. As a people, we have been through a lot, but we are still here standing. Standing because we have found that inner strength and/or that support system to help us to make it through. Many of us have found a healthy outlet for our stress.
A few weeks ago, a 9-year-old boy said in my presence that he is stressed. The adult then said to me, what can he be stressed about, he is only a child. Imagine if he had the responsibilities that I have, she said. The reality is that children get stressed and anxious and need to have a healthy outlet to cope.
Children also pick up on a lot of cues from us adults and they are affected in one way or the other. Not all children experience traumatic stress after experiencing a traumatic event, but those who do can recover. With proper support, many children are able to adapt to and overcome such experiences.
One of the effective ways that children can process and manage their stress is through play. Play is a natural way for children to build relationships and trust. Play allows a child to express how he/she is feeling, learn coping mechanisms and alternative behaviours. Play also allows children to be children and find joy and laughter even when there is chaos around them. Play can also help children deal with traumatic memories. Play can create creative opportunities for children to tell their stories, and express their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams through a wide range of guided activities.
It is important to pay attention to the type of play that the child is engaged in, for example, it is important to not utilize games with violent undertones. Most importantly, play brings forth laughter. Oh, what a joy to hear a child laugh and to see the delight in their eyes. For that, all I can say is…. let’s play!