How Play Therapy Can Help your Young Child

Tricks, Treats, and Trauma: Triggers at Halloween

Not long after fall sets in, the season of spooky ghosts, fairy princesses, and undead ghouls and zombies comes to life! This is an exciting time of year for most kids, but for those who have survived trauma, it could be a little more than is desired. In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why we love to be scared, what can be too scary, and how to handle the sights and frights in a positive way.
Fright is Fun!
When one thinks logically about it, Halloween, horror movies, and even dangerous sports like mountain climbing or cliff diving shouldn’t appeal to us—or our kids! Any good child psychologist in Littleton knows that these are things that make our hearts race, send a shiver down our backs, and mimic some of life’s biggest dangers: falling, losing to the elements, monsters, and worse! But kids, just like adults, are drawn to these things. The act of seeking out that excitement plays a role, but it also helps us to manage and deal with these feelings when they come up in real life. Humans play with all our emotions, from tear-jerking romances to action-packed superheroes, and fear is one of many!
When Scary is Too Scary
For some children (and adults!) these “fun” scares are not so fun. While many people associate this with very younger children, people of all ages can have experiences that can make horror a true fright. For example, children who have witnessed violence or graphic accidents may find that the prop blood used to stage many horror scenes is just too close to reality, or may not want to see or touch it. Children who have been abused may shy away from threatening figures, and for good reason—these behaviors keep them safe, both physically and emotionally.
How to Enjoy the Season
How can you enjoy the Halloween season and help your child to do the same? First, help your child to understand the fear and put it into words. Is your child simply afraid of all monsters? Try visiting an age-appropriate fun event, where the focus of the costume is to be cute or funny, not frightening. Make sure to check age recommendations at haunted houses or festivals, as many are designed for teens or older. If you know that something in particular triggers your child, work with a behavior therapist in Littleton on ways to stay calm and present during these triggers, or build strength by gently exposing him or her to the frightful event through play therapy. Teaching your child to repeat a mantra, such as “these are just costumes, the blood is just syrup and food coloring” can help to keep them focused. Make it clear that nothing is really going to harm them, and encourage them to have fun and master the fear by “being” the scary monster, including jumping out and yelling “boo” at mom and dad from behind corners.
If your child’s fear or trauma reaction is getting in the way of normal functioning, or if he or she is thinking about it very often, working with an experienced mental health therapist is your best option! Dr. Lazarus has helped many children to process trauma and emerge stronger than ever!

Add These Social Questions to Your List for Parent-Teacher Conferences

With the school year fully started, school supplies have been purchased, new clothes have been tried on, and new clubs and activities are clamoring for attention. For many parents, this is a reminder that the parent-teacher conference is coming up! Most schools hold at least one parent-teacher conference per year, and the fall is the most common time for this meeting. Whether you’re planning to quiz your child’s kindergarten teacher about your child’s ability to get into an Ivy League school, inquire if your teen is failing algebra for the third time, or just want to make sure the year is going the best it can , these questions take a step back from the normal “grades and homework” talk. A child psychologist in Highlands Ranch addresses some social and emotional aspects of school.

Does my child have friends?

School is about learning, but it is also about socializing, exploring peer boundaries, and navigating conflict. As adults, most people remember vivid fights on the playgrounds, secrets whispered between passing periods, and lonely lunches more than the specifics of learning how to read and write. Especially if your child is starting a new school, struggling with friends, or has had a history of bullying or victimization in the past, checking on his or her social life is a good start to understanding the fill picture.

How does she handle disappointments?

Every day isn’t going to be the best day—that’s just part of life. But how did your child react to that bad grade on a spelling test? What does she do when the other kids want to play a different game? For the parent who only hears that school went “fine” most days, a little insight can help identify early problems with coping or friendships.

Is he putting forth good effort, or just coasting by?

Many parents of high-achieving students wonder, why go to parent-teacher conferences? My kid’s getting all As, everything is great! However, this can be a good time to check in with teachers to make sure your child is really still motivated and engaged, not just benefitting from “easy” work. High-achieving students will go above and beyond , seek extra opportunities, or deepen their learning by helping others learn. Or, maybe he took an “easy” class to have more time to work through calculus homework. Understanding how your child’s teachers view him, and insight into how time is spent, can help you as a parent.

For a child and teen psychologist in Littleton, parent-teacher conference time equals plenty of new referrals! Keep in mind that you are not alone in helping your child to develop their fullest potential, and if concerns are raised that you need help with, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Steven Lazarus for behavior and emotional strategies.


Get Ready for Back To School Season with these Top Tips!

It seems like summer just got started, but for many kids and teens in Colorado, the back to school season is here! Going back to the “daily grind” after taking a few months off can be a challenge for everyone—after all, the days of sleeping in late, lounging in the pool, and planning epic multi-day sleepovers are likely gone for another season. However, getting your children ready for the best year possible at school is no small task. Many parents seek the expert help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist for tips on managing friendships, getting homework done, and handing behaviors. Read on to find out some great tips for every age!

The First Timers: Starting Kindergarten

If your child is starting school for the first time, get ready for an exciting time! Hopefully, you have already prepared your young child for the fun he or she is going to have at school! Most schools have programs to let new students meet their teachers or tour the school early, and these can be great anxiety reducers. Always be positive while talking about school with your little one, even if you are as nervous as they are! And make sure to drop off with a big smile—you’ll be there at the end of the day to see how they did! For children who are fearful to start school, working with a play therapist  in Littleton can help to introduce scary topics in a friendly, supportive way.

The Importance of Routine

For kindergarteners, middle school kids, and even graduate students, having a routine is key to success in school. There is so much to do, so much to remember, and so many opportunities for stress to break through! Often, when you work with a psychologist in Littleton, you will discuss household and family routines that can be modified or added to increase success. Routines help by making certain things like morning hygiene, after school homework, or cleanup time “automatic” and predictable.

Plan For Success

For parents of students who have been in school before, you may notice the same problems creeping in each year. Does your son always end up with a stack of missing assignments by conferences time? Is your daughter usually in a “major fight” with all her besties before the fall break? Make a plan for how this year will be different and see how it helps! This might involve getting your kid involved in creating an organization system  that works for them, scheduling regular play dates or hang out times with a true friend, or establishing clear parent-teacher communications. Don’t wait until the problems grow into disasters, tackle them early.

Don’t Forget the Fun!

Finally, remember that starting a new school year can be stressful for you and your child! In between the scheduling, planning, and studying, make room for rest and relaxation! Think of starting a new school year like starting a new job and it will be easy to understand why your child or teen just needs some time to “chill.” If you notice that your child never seems to have fun, has fears or worries that keep her from attending school, or if you just need some extra help, contact a teenage psychologist or children’s play therapist in Littleton to see results today!



The Negative Effects of Video Games Interview

An elementary school student named “Zoey” had a number of questions that she asked Dr. Lazarus about video games and their effects on children.
Here are his answers (Audio).

For school, I have a project where I need to research the negative effects of video games. I was wondering if you could answer a few of the questions I have:

  • What is the main/most common effect/s of children becoming addicted to video games?

  • How are children’s social lives negatively impacted by video games?

  • What do video games do to negatively affect children’s mental health

  • What do video games do to affect children physically?

  • What is the main problem the children you see have as a result of playing video games?

  • What do you do to help children recover from video game addiction?

  • Do most children who are addicted to video games end up recovering?

  • What is the main negative difference between children who play video games to children who don’t?

  • What do you think a good time limit for playing video games would be?

  • Do the children playing violent video games that you see tend to be more aggressive than the average child?


Why Doctors are Being Told to Prescribe Play

If you followed healthcare news over the summer, you may recall that pediatricians are being encouraged to prescribe play for children’s development. This isn’t just a fad—the American Academy of Pediatrics has actually done a lot of work to find out how play helps and if American kids are getting enough of it. The result? Many children aren’t getting the chance to play, and they are missing out on some important skills as a result. In the psychology field, child behavior psychologist incorporate a wide variety of tools to help children express themselves and learn, including a variety of play elements. In fact, there is a high demand for children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch because play works! Read on to find out how play helps all sorts of kids.

Creativity and Critical Thinking

Today’s children are getting more hours of school, more hours of extracurriculars, and less original with every passing year. Now, colleges and universities are looking for rarities like creativity and critical thinking, which can be developed in play! From using a comb as a tiny ladder to building a bridge out of playing cards, play offers a chance to build these skills naturally.

Social Skills

Even when your child plays alone, social skills can grow. Particularly for children who play with “characters” (be those stuffed animals, action figures, LEGO people, or paper cutouts), social skills can grow as children explore conflict, resolution, and alternatives.

Language Development

Ever listen quietly from another room while your child plays? Those make-believe stories, voices, and sound effects are fodder for funny videos, but also offer your child an important outlet to try new words and phrases and explore communications in a setting where nobody will judge him.


We want our kids to learn… but all work and no play makes a child dull, bored, irritable, or disruptive! Your child is likely in school for 6-8 hours a day and doing homework as well—allowing time to play is the equivalent of your boss “allowing” you to go home and relax on the weekends. Promote good self-care by encouraging play and downtime.

Ready to play? Your child sure is! Independent playtime is great, but if your child invites you to play, remember to be a good “guest” and follow her lead, get engaged, and have fun. For help using play to address problem behaviors and emotional upset, consult with a skilled play therapist in Littleton and Highlands Ranch.

How Play Therapy Can Help Boost Performance at School

November is the dreaded month where many children receive their report cards and parents start meeting with teachers for the first or second round of parent-teacher conferences. Often, this results in a consultation with a child behavior psychologist in Littleton to talk about behavior, grades, and social skills. While all parents want their children to succeed, some kids just can’t get one or more of these important elements together, making parents wonder “how can I help my child succeed?” Fortunately, play therapy can help  with young children and even some older ones at times. Read on to find out how!


The biggest concern that most parents have for their elementary school students is behavior issues. Many parents seek out children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch to address issues of aggression, anger, sadness, anxiety, and all the “acting out” that comes along with it. Whether your child is poking peers with pencils, bouncing around the room like a jackrabbit, or too scared to walk through the door, play therapy can be a safe place for her to explore her feelings and practice acting in a different way. Instead of making the child herself do these actions, play therapy starts a step back. Puppets, dolls, or even Lego people can take the pressure as children learn tools to feel stronger, control impulses, and keep disruption to a minimum. These skills carry over into real life as well.

Grades and Academics

While therapy is not about teaching academic skills, the skills that your child will learn while working with a play therapist in Littleton will help him to develop the tools he needs to succeed. Through play, your child may express that he does not feel like his work is good enough to turn in, or he might reveal being teased for being the “teacher’s pet.” Whatever is holding your child back will be easier to express through play.

Social Skills

Nobody likes talking about the things they do wrong, especially in social situations. Even young children can identify these experiences as “so embarrassing!” Instead, exploring the social skills of toys or playing socialization games can help children make up for this challenge in a way that is non-threatening and effective. See our tips for building social skills  for more ideas!

Play therapy is generally used with younger children, in the 3-12 year old age range, but can sometimes be good tools for teens who struggle with verbal communication or are unwilling to engage in traditional talk therapy. From the time humans are infants, we explore the “real world” through the safety of play; using this in a therapeutic setting can have powerful benefits.



Turn Bad Behaviors Around: Time In Vs. Time Out

You’ve just brought the kids home from school, and before you can take off your shoes, there’s already a fight. When your little darlings turn into wild animals who hit, kick, and bite—or just yell the most hurtful things they can think of at each other—the standard practice for many years was a time out. Whether this involves a special chair, a corner, a song, or a set time limit, the idea was to separate the child from the situation and from others until he or she calmed down.

But for many parents, time outs just don’t work. They cause more fights, leave the child frustrated and angry, or turn into a battleground to “make” the time out happen. Many parents seek the help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist to figure out how to make time outs work better—or, to identify new strategies to help their child succeed. One tool that child psychologists use is the time in.

A time in accomplishes many of the same goals as a time out. The child is removed from the situation with the goal of improving behavior. The duration is short, and the child can return to having fun afterward. However, while a time out is usually done alone, a time in is done with the parent or caregiver present—both physically and emotionally. What does this mean? During a time in, you support your child by being next to him physically and listening to his words and feelings. Some kids aren’t ready to talk right away, but others can be gently coached to express feelings that came up during the conflict. For example, a child who is sent to “time in” for hitting her brother is not lectured on how hitting is bad; rather, the parent helps her to express the feelings of anger, frustration, or annoyance that were underneath that bad behavior. Sometimes, your child may surprise you and disclose that a big problem at school, with another parent, or with friends is really the issue that is bothering them the most. Praise children  for expressing emotions appropriately and make sure that they know how much you appreciate all the times they show good behavior.

For small children or those who struggle to express themselves verbally, drawing or play-acting with toys  can be helpful. This is similar to how children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch looks, and works very much the same way. Children are guided through the process of making amends and thinking about what could be done better next time; for example, apologizing to the brother and or practicing coping skills when angry. The specifics will vary from child to child and from incident to incident, but the goal is to express, connect, and make better choices in the future.

If you would like to learn more about positive parenting strategies, including the benefits of “time in,” contact a skilled psychologist in Colorado. Dr. Lazarus has helped many parents find the best ways to connect with their children, building them strong to face all the hurdles life throws their way!


Teaching Your Child Time Management

As the school year winds down, your child is ready to be done with it all! Whether you have a pre-school child ready to move on to kindergarten next year or a high school senior embarking to college, both are going to experience major changes in their lives—including a shift in time. The end of the school year can be the perfect season to help your kids develop time management skills that are vital for success throughout their lives.

A Developmental Perspective

One of the biggest complaints that Littleton child behavior psychologists hear is that kids are slow. Slow to get dressed, slow to get homework done, and all of a sudden, things start getting rushed, done at the last minute, or missed entirely. To keep your wits and help your kids develop theirs, make sure that your expectations are appropriate to your child’s age. In the preschool crowd, time is generally limited to just a few minutes or hours into the future. When your 3-year-old asks “are we there yet?” and asks again just 20 minutes later (on your cross-country road trip!), don’t get frustrated. To him, 20 minutes doesn’t seem unreasonable to drive from Colorado to Maine… and that 20 minutes probably felt like 20 hours. As kids get older, learn to tell time, and experience more timed events (30-minute TV shows, 45-minute classes, etc.), these skills develop.

Teaching Skills

  • Help your child understand how long common tasks take. Getting a basic grasp of how long it takes to shower, finish 10 math story problems, walk the dog around the block twice, or style the perfect hair can help to plan effectively. Teens and adults, especially those with ADHD, often struggle to realize the amount of time they spend on tasks .
  • For your child to have good time management, they must learn a variety of steps. One of the biggest is the passage of time, which does come somewhat with age, but can be developed in other ways as well. For example…
  • Note the time frequently, and connect it with real events. “We are going to the park and play for an hour today! That’s as long as it takes to drive to Grandma’s house, but it will seem much faster!” or, perhaps “
  • Speed it up! For the “pokey puppy” out there, encourage speedy performance in a fun way . This can include the classic “last one there’s a rotten egg” sort of games, a personal “world record” for common tasks, and playing speed response games together. Teach your child to “turn on” the speed. This can be a great topic to pursue through play therapy in Highlands Ranch.

Taking Breaks

As a final note, remember that most people can’t perform their fastest, or their best, on a consistent basis. Sprinters go faster than distance runners. Encourage your child to schedule breaks, not only to keep themselves sane, but to keep productivity and time on track. If your child’s time management skills seem very much below that of his or her peers, or if simple strategies don’t work, consider consulting with a child psychologist in Littleton. Dr. Lazarus is skilled in helping children achieve at their highest levels.


Can Play Therapy Really Help My Child?

Can Play Therapy Really Help My Child?

If you are a parent of a young child, you know that they play—a lot! In fact, the majority of a child’s day is filled with what some would call “the work of play.” If you have ever observed your child at play, you might realize that not all is fun and games. Children express deep thoughts and work through the challenges of life by playing, re-enacting, and engaging with the world symbolically. For children, play can be just as important as journaling, talking to friends, or trying out new ideas.

Starting Play Therapy

If your young child is showing behavior or emotional problems, you may have decided to seek out a Littleton child behavior psychologist. A specialist in child behavior problems will usually start out by talking with the parents and getting a good history of the child’s experiences and current functioning, and will likely start off a strong, trusting relationship with the child by playing with toys or games. However, many parents wonder when the “real” therapy is going to start. Believe it or not, that therapy is already well on its way!

The Language of Play

Through the language of play, children feel more comfortable expressing emotions, asking for help, and thinking through real-life issues. The best example that most parents have witnessed usually happens after children visit their pediatricians for the first time. Suddenly, the child’s play will reflect a new interest in the medical kit, they may ask visitors to play the patient or the doctor, and unsettling events such as shots or foul-tasting medicine may be represented frequently in the play. This is how the child “discusses” these strange, new events, and the same is true in therapy. When you bring your child to Highlands Ranch for children’s play therapy, you are giving them the chance to “talk” to the therapist through the actions and words of the toys. Just as you trust your child therapist to ask the right questions and provide helpful feedback through words, you can trust that skilled play therapy will produce these same results.

Effectiveness of Play Therapy

By this point, you know what play therapy is—but does it work? Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of play therapy for children under six years old, and some have even found success in using play therapy techniques for children up to twelve in certain circumstances, including children who are developmentally delayed, verbally limited, or extremely disengaged. The Association for Play Therapy has found that play therapy can help children to become more responsible, develop creative problem-solving strategies, increase self-acceptance, learn to recognize and express emotions in a healthy way, and learn new social skills. The best treatments always involve active parent involvement, so make sure to ask your child behavior psychologist in Littleton as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.