Treating Children of Divorce with Play Therapy

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Introduction

There has been a growing interest in the different ways in which divorce impacts children (Landreth, Ray, & Bratton, 2009). Landreth et al. (2009) suggests that children of divorce are affected in many different ways including emotionally, socially, and even psychologically.

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This disruption in well-being is often shown not only in the home, but at school as well (Landreth et al., 2009). It has become of great importance to continue to emphasize the need to provide effective services for young children struggling with mental health issues at an early age (Meany-Walen, Bratton, & Kottman, 2014). Reports indicate that because children spend much of their time at school, institutions are an ideal location for children to receive these services (Meany-Walen et al., 2014). School counselors, teachers, administrators, and faculty spend a lot of time with students, and are sometimes the first to notice changes in behavior (Trice-Black, Bailey, & Riechel, 2013). With that being said, schools have an essential role of identifying those students who need mental health services (Trice-Black et al., 2013). The challenge often lies in implementing those services in an effective and developmentally appropriate manner (Trice-Black et al., 2013). Applying play therapy in educational settings has been long encouraged by researchers, given that young children’s more complex verbal abilities emerge only as they progress in age (Trice-Black et al., 2013).

This research paper will cover relevant research related to children of divorce, how divorce adversely impacts children, and different aspects of play therapy that this population can benefit from. The first portion will discuss children of divorce and their common reactions as it relates to the separation process. The second portion will discuss the different ways in which children of divorce are impacted in the educational setting. The third portion will provide an overview of play therapy. It will discuss different forms of play therapy along some limitations that come along with this intervention. Finally, with discussing multicultural considerations, information related to why play therapy is a beneficial intervention for children of divorce will be discussed.

Children of Divorce

Increasing divorce rates have led to more research related to the impact of divorce on young children (Kelly & Berg,1978). As a result of divorce, millions of children and adolescents experience the dissolution of their families, and changes to single parent and or blended families (Connell, 2008). For some children, there are multiple changes as they realize that divorce is only the first step in a series of family transitions (Connell, 2008). Children may lose contact with one parent, and then be faced with the family to now include a stepparent and half or stepsiblings (Connell, 2008). All of these transitions can be stressful and impact children’s psychological well-being (Connell, 2008).

Divorce is a time of great fear and emotional turmoil (Connell,

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