Nick Cornett of John Brown University and Sue Bratton from the University of North Texas recently published an article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (2013), finding evidence for family changes resulting from a specific play therapy program called Child-Parent Relationship Therapy. Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (Landreth and Bratton, 2006) is a 10 week program that teaches parents how to use non-directive play with their children as a relationship building intervention. Previous research has supported the notion that Child-Parent Relationship Therapy reduces child behavior problems, reduces parental stress, and increases empathy from parent to child. Cornett and Bratton (2013) found evidence of increased family satisfaction, greater cohesion (agreement, commitment, and relationship strength), increased family flexibility, and better family communication.
While Child-Parent Relationship Therapy is a rigid program, that requires supervision from a professional who is trained in non-directive play therapy, everyone can benefit from changing small things about their play with their child. Below are important principles regarding non-directive play with children that if used, may yield similar changes:
- Set aside 30 minutes per week to play one-on-one, uninterrupted, with your child.
- Be the sports announcer of your child's play. Try not to correct, teach, or lead their play.
- Play with them, as they direct.
- Stay attuned to them and their play, no distractions.
- Give them lead time warnings before ending the play (5, 3, and 1 minute warnings work best).
- When the play is over with, let them leave, while you clean up.
Many parents have a hard time with non-directive play. If you need a good example of how to do non-directive play I highly recommend the movie, Imagine That. If you ignore the story-line about a magical blanket, and pay particular attention to the story-line of being a playful, attentive parent, it is a very good movie. See the trailer below:
Cornett, N. and Bratton, S. C. (2013), Examining the Impact of Child Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) on Family Functioning. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi: 10.1111/jmft.12014
Landreth, G. L., & Bratton, S. C. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT): A 10-session filial therapy model. New York, NY: Routledge.
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