Play Therapy Interventions

Child Therapy Intervention for Coping with the Loss of a Parent

coping, parent, death, loss, grief, child therapy, behavioral therapy, intervention, free handouts, free downloads, play therapy, child therapy intervention

I’ve had some requests for some more posts on grief and loss, so today’s post will be focusing on just that. I have recently been working with some clients who are coping with the loss of a parent.

The loss of a parent at such a young age can be a really difficult and confusing event, particularly if it was embedded with trauma. It is important that the child processes the event as much as possible once they are emotionally stable following the event. This will prevent future relapse and the need for extended therapy in the future. However, especially in the case of the loss of a parent due to a traumatizing event, future spouts of therapy are generally recommended.

A great book that the clinic I work at bought recently is Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile by Julie Kaplow. The intervention today is focused on this book in addition to some handouts that I created to use in conjunction with the book or individually.


What you need for the intervention is:

-A copy of Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile  by Julie Kaplow

FREE Happy Memories Handout

FREE I Miss You Letter Handout

-Writing utensils

To begin the intervention, start by introducing the story and then diving into the book. This can be a lengthy book for little ones, so I generally like to divide it into two. The great thing about dividing the book into two is that you get two interventions for the price of one!

The story focuses on Sammy Jane, a little girl who recently had her father die. Sammy Jane lost her smile and is finding it difficult to be happy when her father is no longer around.

A friendly neighbor comes over and asks her to come pick berries, something that Sammy Jane loved doing with her father. The neighbor tells Sammy Jane a great metaphor about suppressing feelings and encourages Sammy Jane to think of happy memories with her father.

This is the point in the book that I usually stop with little ones and engage in our first handout, the Happy Memories Handout. I instruct the child to brainstorm things that remind them of their loved one that passed away. This is a very general prompt and I usually help my clients by saying “it could be your mom/dad’s favorite food, an activity you liked to do together, a very special one time memory….” and so on and so forth. After brainstorming, I compare the client to Sammy Jane and state that it is more helpful to think of the happy memories than the difficult memories about a loved one.


The second part of the book focuses on Sammy Jane writing a letter to her father updating her on her life and expressing how much she misses him. This is a great place to use the I Miss You Letter Handout. This handout is a way for children to communicate and process the death of their loved one.

As I mentioned above, this post came from some requests for interventions focusing on grief and loss. Comment below or contact me via the contact form if there is anything that you would like to see on the blog!

Play on!



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