It may seem a little frivolous to focus on play when prior to coming here, the main focus of our mamas and their kids, had been on survival. Play seems a bit indulgent and quite unnecessary when you don’t have enough food to eat or proper shelter.
Poverty takes it toll on people. Children and women are vulnerable and can suffer great trauma when their day to day survival is at stake. Poverty is not an isolated problem. It often comes hand in hand with illness, violence, trauma and fear. The day to day uncertainty does not allow a mama to be fully present with her children. She may set high expectations on them to help care for younger siblings, earn money or to stay at home alone in charge of the family home or shelter.
As our nine residents get more and more comfortable here at Project Somos the stories unfold. When children are in a safe environment, they may begin to act out and some of past difficulties can present themselves through behaviours and fears. We have witnessed this with the children. And we are being proactive.
I just finished reading the book “Attachment Play” by Aletha J. Solter, PHD. The book shows how you can use play to solve behavioural problems, past traumas and fears with play, laughter and connection. It delves into the different types of play that parents can draw on to engage with their children. There are nine forms of attachment play that Solter describes in her book; non-directive child-centred play, symbolic play, contingency play, nonsense play, separation games, power-reversal games, regression games, activities with body contact and cooperative games and activities.
She draws on much research for attachment play and shares many examples she has used or those that her clients have used. We encourage the mamas to spend time playing with their children every single day. They have shared how it is making a difference in their parenting.
Yesterday I was invited by one of the kids to join in their game of the equivalent of our “kick the can”. The mamas have been playing this with the kids in the playground before dinner a number of evenings and it is such a joy to witness. I was honoured to be asked to join in and had a blast running, hiding and laughing along with the two mamas and all the kids!