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PhD student seeking solutions to child behavioural problems

UC health sciences PhD student seeking solutions to child behavioural problems

November 29, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) health sciences PhD student is investigating a different approach to finding solutions to child behavioural and emotional problems.

Studies have shown about five percent of New Zealand primary school children are anti-social and about 30 percent of seven-year-old children in Dunedin have been reported by their parents and their teachers with a high level of behavioural problems.

UC’s Vanessa Loh is working with parents of young children with behaviour problems. She is using a new play-based approach which is different from the usual interventions, and may be of significant interest to some parents and the community.

``Rather than the traditional behavioural approaches, I am applying parent-child play relationships to achieve self-directed changes in child behaviour.

``There is a direct connection between how children feel and how they behave. When children feel good about themselves, they will act and behave in the same way.

``Theorists emphasise that by using play to allow a child to feel heard, understood, cared about and accepted, they become more social and mature in their behaviour, which ultimately initiates self-responsible and co-operative behaviour.

``Child behavioural problems are regarded as a form of expression of deeper emotions or thoughts, which sometimes involve the child’s misunderstanding his or her parents’ intentions.

``Therefore, parents are trained to be the `play therapist’ for their children in order to identify the emotion and thought, and their meanings, by developing a therapeutic relationship with their children in home play sessions as well as in their daily living.

``Parents help their children to improve their self-worth, which ultimately initiates self-directed change and behavioural and emotional regulation in the children.

``My research project includes an individualised five-session family play-based programme. I have experience in counselling families with behavioural and emotional problems in their young children.’’

Loh is studying under the supervision of UC’s Associate Professor Kathleen Liberty and Associate Professor Karyn France.

Her project will be an experiential process for parents and children. Loh will provide a set of play session toys and a live demonstration of a child-centred play session with the child for each family.

To better support the families, some sessions can be carried out at the family home, if preferred. There is also a possibility of follow-up support. Parents who have concerns about the behavioural or emotional problems of their three to six year old children can contact Loh for more information about her research project.


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