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Sossin, K. Cohen, P. (2011). Children's Play in the Wake of Loss and Trauma. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 10(2):255-272.

(2011). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 10(2):255-272

Children's Play in the Wake of Loss and Trauma

K. Mark Sossin, Ph.D. and Phyllis Cohen, Ph.D.

In the Project for Mothers, Infants, and Young Children of September 11, 2001, children were longitudinally observed and filmed playing and interacting with mothers and therapists as an extension of the mother-infant/stranger-infant face-to-face play paradigm (Beebe, 2003). Children included those still in the womb on September 11, 2001, when their fathers died, as well as older siblings. Play observations contributed to the assessment of risk and resilience and were used in follow-up video feedback sessions with mothers. Implicit and explicit features of play interactions are described with regard to developmental acquisitions, symbolization, and play themes. Mother-child play is sometimes marked by joining on the part of the mother and sometimes by overriding. Maternal diversion and overriding was particularly evident when themes of aggression emerged. In play episodes, children demonstrated intense efforts to express feelings, worries, and queries. Play themes frequently pertained to death, destruction, rescue, irretrievaibility, and risk taking. Therapists aimed to be nondirective and facilitative of elaboration. Video feedback of children's play with mother and therapist addressed insecurities of mothers and fostered greater recognition of children's grief and more sharing of affect between mother and child. A case example of play and videofeedback is described. Children were helped to develop and hold paternal representions and to use play as a means of expression.

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