Why Understanding Child’s Play Can Help You If You’re an Abuse Survivor Struggling in Relationships

Have you ever watched a group of children playing together? There’s so much energy and so much smiling. There’s lots of running around, and then inevitably, somebody starts crying. Someone gets mad. There’s a bit of emotional chaos. Sometimes a grown-up has to step in and sometimes the kids work it out themselves.

You might call it child’s play.

After all that’s what children do. They run around, they have fun, they quarrel, and then they get up and do it all over again. But there’s something a bit deeper going on that most of us don’t even realize. It’s the learning of how to handle the ups and downs of relationships. It’s  111 (2)a vital skill.

It even goes on with preschoolers.

Researchers noted that at the start of a school year, preschoolers who are the most outgoing and socially adept show a high amount of activity in the brain circuit that triggers stress hormones. These “jitters” are actually helpful to them as they help them prepare to deal with an uncertain situation. As the school year winds on, however, the stress hormone levels gradually decline as these children learn to master the ups and downs of the social playground. In contrast, socially isolated and unhappy preschoolers maintain high stress hormone levels and in some cases, they even increase.

This is why successful mastery of child’s play is so important. It teaches you how to navigate social situations with grace, an important component of building and maintaining relationships.

The good news is that even if you missed out on this as a child because you were abused, you can still learn to do it as an adult.

First, you can enroll in therapy if you haven’t already. I suggest trying to find a therapist that practices cognitive-behavio111 (1)ral therapy, as that particular style of therapy works on helping you develop skills to change your thinking patterns and your actions, which is how you change anything in your life. A good therapeutic relationship helps you rebuild a sense of trust in yourself in the world and helps you relearn how to relate to others in a healthy manner.

Secondly, once you have a secure trusting base (i.e., therapy) you can begin to branch out and make new connections. Try new activities that interest you and that hopefully give you a chance to connect with like-minded individuals. Give yourself a chance to “play” as it were. You may be dealing with feelings of emptiness as you go through this. That’s ok. Grieve in the safe space you create with your therapist. It may feel like rough going at first, but you’ve got to keep trying.

You may not have a happy childhood, but you can still have a great adult life.

Just start learning how to play again. You don’t have to throw a temper tantrum like a preschooler, but once you learn how to start enjoying life like one, you’ll find yourself smiling a lot more often. And that’s something worth shooting for.

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