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Updated: Feb 5, 2018

Have you ever wondered why children don't always respond the way you wish they did? Have you ever felt frustrated when your child says "I don't know" after every reasonable question you ask? If so, check out this video.

Children communicate differently from adults, but that doesn't limit their ability to express themselves. Children use play as "words" to express their feelings, needs, and wishes.

That's why play therapy works.

Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate treatment approach for young children and teens. Some might disagree, because there are misconceptions that play is for "little kids" and "can't possibly be therapy". However, there has been extensive research on the benefits of play therapy, such as decreased anxiety, depression, aggression, and behavior problems. It also has protective factors. For example, children who engage in play therapy are less likely to have self-esteem issues and tend to have lowered parent-child relationship stress.

Play therapy impacts families and communities. It empowers parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adult figures to better understand and appreciate the child in their life who has a legitimate need to be heard, understood, and considered.

As a certified play therapist, I have witnessed the process work and help kids feel better. My favorite part of play therapy is watching children transform in their self-confidence. I have observed shy and fearful children become expressive, happy, and playful.

I want to give a special thanks to the Association for Play Therapy for spreading awareness about children's mental health nationwide. Check it out to learn more about the benefits of play therapy and how to grow in your communication with your child.

Take some time to play today!

Oksana Thompson is a licensed mental health counselor and certified play therapist. She is a member of NBCC and the Association for Play Therapy. Oksana is the business owner of Inner Wellness Counseling PLLC.

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  • Writer's pictureOksana Thompson

Updated: Feb 5, 2018

Staying busy is the new normal in today's culture. From the professional, the stay at home caregiver, and yes, even the child. Soccer practice, piano lessons, SAT prep, and the list goes on. Children are finding themselves more and more busy, pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines and live up to exaggerated expectations. As a result, children are experiencing more stress and have limited time and resources to cope with life demands. Research indicates that children who experience chronic stress tend to have greater health issues, such as obesity, which is linked to increased risk for sleeping problems, increased or decreased appetite, headaches, and unresolved anger. Over time, children who are repeatedly exposed to stress are also more likely to have mental health issues, such as depression.

So, while staying busy has been known to be a great distraction, and even a motivator to complete tasks, where do caregivers draw the line? How can caregivers model balance and self-care?

One tool you can try with your child is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of being present, non-judgmental, aware, and engaged. It is showing appreciation for what is- not what should be or could be. There are many benefits for youth to practice mindfulness, such as improved resiliency to cope with stress and trauma, increased self-compassion and greater use of coping skills to manage school related stress. Mindfulness has also been known to decrease depression and anxiety in youth. In fact, research indicates that children without mental illness are also better able to manage stress after practicing mindfulness exercises.

You don't have to be an expert - Implementing mindfulness can be as simple as encouraging your child to "stop and notice", slow down, and show appreciation for themselves or something meaningful in their world.

Here are some practical exercises on mindfulness for you and your child to try together:

1. Model appreciation by praising your child's efforts, not outcomes. "You worked hard on that".

2. Play a game outside, noticing smells, sights, touch, and sounds

3. Practice a deep breathing exercise. Dr. Matthew Brensilver explains a step by step exercise here.*

To learn more about mindfulness research and exercises for school aged children, visit

Written by Oksana Thompson, LMHC, NCC, MHP, Certified Play Therapist

Oksana Thompson is a licensed mental health counselor and certified play therapist. She is a member of NBCC and the Association for Play Therapy. Oksana is the business owner of Inner Wellness Counseling PLLC.


American Psychological Association. (2010, November 9). APA survey raises concern about health impact of stress on children and families. Retrieved from

*Brensilver, Matthew. (2017, December 18). Two bellies, two breaths, two hands. Retrieved from

Chandler G.E., Roberts S.J., Chiodo L. (2015). Resilience intervention for young adults with adverse childhood experiences. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 21, 406-416. doi:10.1177/1078390315620609

Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593–600.

Mindful Schools. (2018). Research on Mindfulness. Retrieved from

Sibinga E.M., Perry-Parrish C., Chung S.E., Johnson S.B., Smith M., Ellen J.M. (2013). School-based mindfulness instruction for urban male you: A small randomized controlled trial. Prev. Med,(57), 799-801.doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.08.027

Sibinga E.M., Webb L., Ghazarian S.R., Ellen J.M. (2016). School-based mindfulness instruction: An RCT. Pediatrics, 137. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2532

Vinkers CH, Joels M, Milaneschi Y, Kahn RS, Penninx BW, Boks MP. (2014, April 17). Stress Exposure Across the Life Span Cumulatively Increases Depression Risk and is Moderated by Neuroticm. Depression and Anxiety: The Official Journal of ADAA, 31(9), 737-745. doi:10.1002/da.22262

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