Does your child like playing doctor? It’s often the case that children try to work through difficult or traumatic experiences through play. Sometimes playing doctor can be a way to work through feelings about a difficult birth, or medical intervention in their early lives. Our children may not even consciously remember these incidents, but they can effect their overall wellbeing and confidence.
Bringing a bit of laughter to this kind of play using the Hand in Hand tool of playlistening helps children to heal. Through laughter they can work through their feelings, and release some of the stress and tension. It can also help build children’s confidence for when they really need to go to the doctor.
If your child had difficult early medical experiences it can be great to buy a doctor’s kit and see if this inspires any play. Then you can see if there are ways to bring laughter into the play. For example if you’re the doctor perhaps you can act silly and make mistakes. You could give yourself an injection instead of a teddy, or try to take the blood pressure and get all muddled up about what you’re supposed to do. Making mistakes helps your child to release tension, as the ‘all-powerful’ doctor isn’t so powerful at all.
If you child decides to treat you, perhaps you can try running away, but always get caught or, act all reluctant saying you don’t want to go to the doctor and would rather stay at home. If you’re playing with cuddly toys you might want to role play them ‘escaping’ from the hospital saying ”I don’t like it here, I think I’m going to go home.” Then your child can be in the more powerful role, catching the toy and bringing them back.
My daughter recently had a blood test, and today while we were travelling by train, she grabbed my hand, and put it into my rucksack strap and told me it had to go to the doctor. She started ‘pinching’ my hand, and I would wriggle around and object as she giggled and held me tight. I complained that it made me feel itchy and scratchy, so that I was acting powerless. It was clear to me that she was working on feelings about the blood test, this time in the more powerful role.
This play can build safety and trust for your child to show big feelings, about any times they were hurt or scared by medical intervention. If you notice that later after lots of giggly doctor play your child has a big meltdown or upset about something small, it’s possible that they are healing from their early experiences. In these moments, it’s good just to stay close and listen. You can read more about how children heal through play and crying on the Hand in Hand parenting website.