When I was first introduced to the concept of parent coaching (before I had children of my own), I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I had an idea of what a parent coach did, but I wasn’t sure how it was different from therapy. Honestly, I didn’t really know why a parent would decide to take their child to a play therapist, and I certainly didn’t know why a parent would hire a coach. Maybe you’re in the same boat. You might know that you need support, but aren’t really sure how to find the right kind of support for you. The first step in making this decision is to understand the types of support available, so let’s take a closer look at play therapy, parent coaching, and even occupational therapy so you can better understand what they have to offer for you and your child.
Play therapy is one of the most recommended resources available to parents, and it is wonderful for helping children develop social-emotional and problem solving skills. Play therapists use play to help children work through their challenges and learn strategies that they can apply in real life. This is incredibly valuable and powerful, and it is especially good for children facing major stressors and big life changes, such as death, divorce, moving, or serious illness. It is also very helpful for children who need extra support building relationships and acquiring social-emotional skills because their developmental path falls outside of the range of typical. If you are looking for somebody to help your child develop the skills they are struggling with learning but are necessary for them to be an integrated member of society, play therapy is an excellent option. The play therapist will loop you in on what they are doing and give you some ideas for how you can support your child at home, too, so you will likely get some new strategies and perspectives out of it. If you are looking for more support for yourself, though, it’s important to know that the primary focus of play therapy is supporting the child.
Parent coaching is different from play therapy in that parent coaches serve parents directly. A parent coach will work with you directly to help you resolve challenges you are facing that are specific to your child and your family dynamic. Working with a coach will give you proven strategies that will change the way you relate to and parent your child well into the future. Parent coaches can help you stop yelling at your child, transform your discipline strategy and set healthy and authentic limits. The connection you have with your child will deepen, which will make your relationship with your child more meaningful. Instead of focusing on teaching your child new skills, parent coaches teach you how to support your child’s development and teach them the skills they need to grow into emotionally healthy, self-confident adults. Parent coaching is often a shorter commitment because once you change your trajectory and build momentum developing and refining your skill with these new strategies, you and your child will need less outside support.
I couldn’t write about professionals supporting children without adding a section about occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is an important resource to understand because it is beneficial for so many children, and can be a wonderful complement to play therapy or parent coaching. Occupational therapists support children in the “work” of childhood– play! It is a fantastic support for children who have gross motor delays or may have missed milestones as infants. It can also support development of fine motor skills, which are essential to writing and school success. If your child has any sort of sensory challenges, regardless of whether or not they have Sensory Processing Disorder, an occupational therapist can help them better integrate their experiences.
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