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Playful Parenting for Grown Ups
A few weeks ago I was at my friends' house playing on the floor with Anya, who is three years old. I pretended to be horribly sick and she pretended to be the doctor. It was especially fun because Anya was using my daughter's old doctor play kit, which we had handed down to her a few months before. So I recognized the plastic thermometer and blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, and I howled with imaginary pain and fear as Anya took care of me. I joked to Anya's mother that I should borrow the kit back, because I had an adult client who was afraid of doctors--especially getting a shot or giving blood. We laughed about how funny that would be to do this kind of play with another grown-up, and then Lisa said, "Why not?"

So I asked Anya if I could borrow her doctor bag and pretend syringe, and I brought it into my office a few days later. I asked my client if he was willing to try something a little different to help him with his fears. He said sure, so I pulled out my little bright blue doctor's bag. He started laughing right away, and he continued to laugh as I gave him shots and took his blood and told him with a super-serious face that he had a rare case of Falingiominosis and other made-up silly-sounding diseases. Then he got to turn the tables and make me give blood. I hammed it up just like I do with preschoolers, and he had a great time.

After a few minutes I handed him a stuffed animal to be his next patient, and he suddenly stopped laughing and talked very seriously to the monkey, telling it exactly what he was going to do next, and being very patient and empathic. He looked up at me, tears in his eyes, asking me if he was a total dope to be crying over pretending to give a shot to a monkey. I assured him that it was just his chance to tell the scared little kid inside him all the things he needed to hear. When we were done and put the toys away, he said that usually when he got scared about going to the doctor, he despised himself for being weak. But in this game, he got to see himself as deserving of nurturing when he was scared, instead of deserving scorn and contempt. The next week he reported that he had gone to his doctor for a long-delayed blood test.

Larry Cohen
phone: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com

 
Larry Cohen
1680A Beacon Street | Brookline, MA 02445 | Tel/Fax: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com