You do not want to miss today’s episode...Clair Mellenthin is a very accomplished spreader of light. She is first and foremost a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend. She has three rambunctious kids who she refers to as “her insanity makers and her sanity savers”.  She is married to her best friend and partner in all she does. Aside from those important details, she is a best selling author and has written several books and courses, she’s a world-renowned play therapist, and above all has touched thousands of lives for the better.

This Week’s PRO TIP is: Carry out a playful event or activity for your family (eg. Nerf gun battle with your family, ice cream party, spontaneously play). Don’t put it off, just start practicing PLAY! “Do or do not, there is no try” - (not baby) Yoda

Come join the conversation and play with us!


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Neal Hooper: [00:00:00] [00:00:00]

[00:00:31] you do not want to miss today's episode. Claire Mellenthin is a very accomplished spreader of light. She is first and foremost, a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend. She has three rambunctious kids who she refers to as both her insanity makers and her sanity savers. 

[00:00:54]She is married to her best friend and partner in all she does. Aside from those [00:01:00] very important details. She is a best selling author and has written several books in courses. She's a world renowned play therapist. And above all has touched thousands of lives for the better. I cannot wait for you to dive into this game changing conversation. It really did change my life and I'm so grateful that she was willing to come on our show. 

[00:01:25] And speak our language and enlightened us. So let's go.  

[00:01:30] I am so excited for our guests today. And I have been wanting to have Claire on the show for a while now, because she has such a unique perspective about so many things that we hold dear here on the happiness playbook.

[00:01:47] She is an expert in many areas, but she really has. Double down on play and using that in therapy to help families, children, [00:02:00] and individuals really get the most out of their life and manage conflict and communication and so many things. So there's a lot to cover here, but Claire, we are honored to have you on the happiness playbook.

[00:02:14] Welcome to the show.

[00:02:16] Clair Mellenthin: [00:02:16] Thanks so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

[00:02:20] Neal Hooper: [00:02:20] We are so happy to have you, and you know, there's a lot to unpack here, so I want to just dive right in and a good place to start is, what amazing projects are you working on? You're up to so many cool things. So just help us understand what you're doing, what you're passionate about and how did you get here?

[00:02:39]Clair Mellenthin: [00:02:39] I'm so excited. I have some amazing projects that are brewing. My latest book that I'm co-editing with some amazing play therapists is about to be in final production with our publishing company Rutledge. And that is un-group play therapy and contemporary.

[00:02:57] Life of just what we're experiencing and then [00:03:00] how clinicians can help children and families in a group therapy setting while we're harnessing the power of play to work through trauma, family, navigating family's circumstances, school hospital, like all of these things that impact families and children's and just everyday life and being able to really. Hone in and harness how play and playing together can help promote healing and connection and repair relationships. And this has been one of my little brain tiles. That's been brained for the last couple of years. So it's so exciting to be in the final stages of production and that should be out this fall.

[00:03:39]Yeah, I'm so excited. And then my other. A huge thing that's happening is we're putting together, I'm headlining a conference in a couple of months called the attachment summit. And this is, we've invited some of the biggest and brightest Names in the field and we're all coming together to talk about how we can [00:04:00] repair and understand attachment and create healthy bonds of communication and connection and families harnessing attachment centered play therapy, which is the model of that I've developed over the last several years, but really looking at how we can use play.

[00:04:15] To promote healing and repair and family relationships, especially between the parent and child. And so this has like the culmination of my life's work at this point. And coming together with some of, like with some of the names and humans have really created such a huge difference in our understanding of how the brain works.

[00:04:35] So like Dan Siegel and Sue Johnson and Daniel Hughes, and several other people are part of this. And it really is just one of the most exciting things I've ever been able to do. So I'm really looking forward to some of these things that are coming up in that both of these, AR will be open and available to the public.

[00:04:51]And. Even though they're geared for therapists. I think parents can get so much from really beginning to understand, what [00:05:00] happens internally, what's happening in the brain and what they can do in their own homes to incorporate some of these ideas to have healthy, happy homes and safe places for their children to grow up in.

[00:05:11] Neal Hooper: [00:05:11] Wow. That is awesome, Claire and that is so exciting. We're definitely going to get information in the show notes for anyone listening that wants to participate and sign up. And, view any of these things. And obviously your book, when that comes out will be a huge resource that we're excited about.

[00:05:30] So you are up to so many good things. You're just scratching the surface. That's just what Claire's working on now. But you got to look at our website, which we'll also put in the show notes. There's a lot to unpack there and you've just been such a force for good and really leveraging play, which obviously at the happiness playbook, we use play theory to foster connection and growth and development. And so it's something we're passionate about. I want to just take a second though and let you expound on what exactly is play [00:06:00] therapy. How would you describe that to someone who's never heard of it before?

[00:06:03] Clair Mellenthin: [00:06:03] That's a great question. So what play therapy is we are using the child's natural language, which has play in a therapeutic modality. And, the belief behind this is children, especially when they're young. They use play to make sense of the world around them. Like they, they play out, family life, they play out school life.

[00:06:28] They play out, all of the things that they're exposed to because that's how they're going to learn and grow. And it's what makes sense in their brains. And so if we can go down to the child's level and engage with them through play. That's where these connections are going to be made. And when we can then bring in the parent, and use play, and within these different therapeutic modalities, we can really improve family functioning, child, emotional and behavioral distress even mental illness, [00:07:00] that can come about through trauma or developmental disorders.

[00:07:03] It's through the use of play and really being trained in how to use this therapeutically, that we can make the biggest strides and in helping children and families.

[00:07:12] Neal Hooper: [00:07:12] Wow, that is so cool. And I, we have so many angles that we're going to take as throughout this conversation. And so I don't want to jump the gun here, but, I think, and we talked about this in a previous call children. Use play like that is their language, I think is you even said that, right.

[00:07:31] That is the language of children is play. But I would go out on a limb there and say, just because adults forget how to play or they get bad at it. I think it can. The concepts and the principles are still very effective at any age. Is that fair to say?

[00:07:49] Clair Mellenthin: [00:07:49] Absolutely. I use play therapy and expressive arts across the lifespan and with every client that comes in to see me in some capacity or another. [00:08:00] And I think that you nailed it on the head, of, as we grow up, we're socialized out of playing, but so much of what we experienced. There's no words to adequately articulate what that experience means to us, but when we can create it outside of us, like through Sandtray through art, through me, as that, whatever medium that we're using and make it a tangible thing that we can see in process that helps the words come.

[00:08:27]And that is important at any stage of the lifespan, and I think. So often as adults, we forget how important play really is because we get so busy and, it's frowned upon and considered weird if we're out, engaging in childlike play and we're in our forties, unless we're playing with a child and then it's appropriate, but the power of play, I think, is still so very critical.

[00:08:50] And it's, what's missing in so many adults life, which is where we have this out of balance. Conflict , that happens with us.

[00:08:59]Neal Hooper: [00:08:59] That is [00:09:00] huge. And I think that has led to a lot of. Issues. And again, I we're going to keep unpacking, play in how it benefits everyone from all walks of life here. But I think as we, it's an expression too, it's a way to express herself and get out emotions. And when we don't do that and you can bottle things up and it causes all kinds of problems and I'm not.

[00:09:26] The expert here, that's just based on things I've studied and researched, but I want to dive a little deeper into what are some of the core elements of play therapy or maybe walk us through a little bit of the journey you help take people on , to improve their situation through play therapy.

[00:09:45]Clair Mellenthin: [00:09:45] With play therapy has been used really for throughout the last century. And it has ebbed and flowed, in, in pop culture and, and the regular understanding of everybody. But play therapy has actually been around [00:10:00] for a really long time. And so all those many moons ago, it started in Europe with some of the more famous psychoanalysts that people are familiar with. Freud had a daughter named Anna and she was one of the first, known psychoanalysts that started working with children for, I did actually some work with children as well. But she started looking at how children played and noticing.

[00:10:24] The different quality of play and how that was based upon the child's functioning level, in a sense. And then it has spread throughout that time, during, the world Wars, Bowlby came in into the scene of through the attachment lens, but also looking at and observing how children had been exposed to significant trauma or prolonged separation or hospitalization.

[00:10:46]Sorry, what we had back then was like a silence where children who had developmental or neurological disorders were removed from their homes and sent to live in a silence, far away from their families. And looking at, and beginning to understand that children [00:11:00] aren't blink States.

[00:11:01] Right. Like the world impacts them and what they experience stays with them. And what we've found over time is that, when that's unprocessed and unacknowledged, that's what leads to so many distresses and dysfunction and adult life and their ability to navigate the world around them and relationships.

[00:11:23] And to make sense of, even having any type of words to articulate, what the experience has been. And so, you fast forward several years and, coming from Carl Rogers, like person centered therapy, that was adopted into the use of kids of really allowing it to be.

[00:11:40] Child led and what's referred to as child centered play and really empowering the child to be their own storyteller, to bring their stories and their experiences. And then we use toys and we use play therapy. I always tell people like these coy is like a vocabulary word for [00:12:00] a child and what they choose to bring into their play actually has meaning and importance.

[00:12:07] And when we can allow permission for the child to be an expert in their story, so to speak, they can begin to make sense of the world around them. The things that they've experienced, the emotions that they feel, even if they're not able to cognitively or linguistically, have verbal vocabulary words, or storytelling around it.

[00:12:28] They can make sense to start processing through this with, a trained therapist and those things that, that can help them to find reconciliation, to find hope and healing, to find an ability to integrate these different parts of their life into a coherent story. That makes sense.

[00:12:47] Neal Hooper: [00:12:47] Wow. And that is so interesting. Cause you don't really think about when you see a child playing. You may not even be. Looking into it that, from that perspective. And I'm just [00:13:00] curious, what's an example of that, where the toy actually has meaning that they're choosing to, to play with. Can you just give us an example?

[00:13:09] Clair Mellenthin: [00:13:09] Sure. An easy example as this is, I think globally for most of the parents is, in those patients. School kindergarten ages when your Sheldon starts playing house. And all of a sudden you hear your words coming out of their mouth for better, for worse, whatever that is. Right.

[00:13:30] And this is your title, like making sense of family life and parent roles and the dynamics between parents and how parents. Yeah, their own kids, and so we see this when they're playing house, when they're playing doctor, when they're playing school, this is actually your child processing their different experiences throughout the day and throughout their lifetime.

[00:13:55]What we've seen in the pandemic when there has been the absence of school is [00:14:00] kids have been playing zoom calls. Or in family life, playing house, you see this more and more frequently. It's like, hold on penny. I have to get on a call and they pretend to get on the laptop. Right. And they're making sense.

[00:14:12] And this is making sense of what is happening in their life.

[00:14:16] Neal Hooper: [00:14:16] Yes, that literally just happened to me  it was just last week. My older daughter looked at her sister and said, I got to go to work and then went into the closet. Cause that's where I'm working out of a room, and it was just so interesting to see that, but it is so cool because They are adapting, that's like you said, that's an example of their environment impacting their psychology and their imagination.

[00:14:45] And as things change around them, you can see that play out even as they're playing. And I'm curious obviously the pandemic has changed so much of the way we go about our day-to-day lives. Is that a concerning [00:15:00] trend with the children and their ability to play and interact with others.

[00:15:05] I'm just curious on your thoughts. Real quick on that.

[00:15:09]Clair Mellenthin: [00:15:09] The answer is it can be, and not necessarily how's that. I think so much of how our kids are making meaning and adapting and connecting really has a lot to do with how we are as the adults. You see this, for example, a mass green, right?

[00:15:25] Like it's a normal, natural, no big deal thing. Like, Oh, that's just what we do then it's a normal, natural, no big deal to the kids. But when there's that like, ah, this is so wrong. It's so suffocating me, coming from the adults, we see that being reenacted, right? The kids behaviors and emotional responses to that as well.

[00:15:43]One of my little kiddos that comes to see me, it's actually a really cute, but he's a little four year old and he's always brought his stuff, like one of his stuffed animals with them to play therapy. And the last couple of times his stuffed animals were in a mask. Like Kevin he's like, well, we just have to keep everybody safe.

[00:15:59] I'm [00:16:00] like, yep, you're right. We just have to keep everybody safe. And this is the most important person in his world. And so his little stuffed animal, like his cute mom made his most important toy, a mask too, which I just thought was such a beautiful way to create that connection and really valuing the child and their worries.

[00:16:21] And. As well as like that empowerment of, what we can be safe. Like we can still live our life. We can still go outside and, because you have asthma and your lungs sometimes not work very well. These are the things that we can do to keep us safe so that we can do all these fun things.

[00:16:39] And I just thought it was such a great way for the parent to create that holding space around that too, of like the world doesn't have to be big and scary, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

[00:16:51]Neal Hooper: [00:16:51] As a parent myself, it's really hard to not. Let your opinions or thoughts become [00:17:00] more important than the, the psychological state or the emotional wellbeing of your children. Regardless of how you feel about masks or the situation, being able to help your child feel like.

[00:17:13] Like, it's not, something's not wrong that that it's and it's okay. That it's safe. That can have a huge impact. Is that fair to say?

[00:17:21] Clair Mellenthin: [00:17:21] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that a lot of times we don't recognize how important and how deeply in tune our our children are with what comes out of our math. And what meaning our kids make from that, I mean, earlier in the spring when this, really felt super scary, but just if anything, to look back on, I'm like, Oh, we were freaking out.

[00:17:40] Cause I was 35 cases in Utah instead of how many thousands of cases that we've had now, 

[00:17:45] Neal Hooper: [00:17:45] it's

[00:17:45] Clair Mellenthin: [00:17:45] But I know for me, even as a parent, I got mad at one of my kids for, going out with a group of friends and I was like, you can't do that. Cause I was scared and stress and watching that translate into the world is scary and I can't [00:18:00] leave really took some, a lot of repair around that.

[00:18:03]And that's what the big kid, right? That's what the teenager let alone with the younger children. And so I think that. I think that is just so important for us as parents, that we are really being mindful about the language that we're using in our home. And know that, our words actually really do matter.

[00:18:20] Even if you don't think your kids are listening or they're brushing you off or they're, rolling their eyes, like whatever you're old, you don't know what you're talking about. I worked in actions do matter and our kids are paying attention. And I think that, that's not something to be scared about as a parent, but I think it's something to be really mindful about.

[00:18:37] Neal Hooper: [00:18:37] Yes. And one of them. Principals. We're really passionate about here at the happiness playbook is accepted and build. And I think it really ties into the conversation we're having, as a parent, especially, but I think, this applies much broader than just that parent child relationship.

[00:18:55] And so, but just, accepting where they're at and. [00:19:00] Building upon that and not trying to impose your perspective or your emotions even onto them, I think is huge. And the other principle that, obviously applies to a lot of different things, but is look outward. We talk about that a lot here on the podcast and, just keep them in mind, when you're feeling big things and wanting to react away, especially if it's a charged emotional topic, and again, I love that you said don't let that scare you because I think every parent at some point, or at multiple points in, On a daily basis, in some cases are so worried about traumatizing their kids. I know I have that thought in the back of my head all the time is like, Oh my gosh, did I just traumatize my kid?

[00:19:45]My, my messing them up. And, it's, I don't think it's helpful to dwell on that energy either, but it is important to recognize and be proactive in how you're translating the world and what's going on for them. And in trying to do that in a healthy way.

[00:20:00] [00:20:00] Clair Mellenthin: [00:20:00] I love that. And I think that comes into, so much of my approach, in my own life, as well as in, in my clinical work is. It's okay to mess up. Like we are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to say something. That's like, ah, how did that come out of my mouth?

[00:20:17]And that repair piece that coming back to rebuild, I really love that analogy of that. I think it's so important, for us to be modeling that for our kids. Cause it, it teaches them that, you know what, it's okay to make a mistake it's we can rebuild and repair. And when we can be accountable as the adult to have, what I messed up, I am so sorry.

[00:20:39] I lost my temper. I'm so sorry. I yelled at you. I didn't mean to say that word and actually sincerely apologize. I think that's something that as adults we've really have a hard time doing that on a regular basis, but it's so important to do because what we're modeling for our kids is that there's room for [00:21:00] you to grow in here too.

[00:21:01] And there's room for you to make mistakes and we can repair and we can keep coming back and circling back and connecting and just because a mistake happened, it doesn't mean that we're broken beyond repair too.

[00:21:16] Neal Hooper: [00:21:16] Oh, Claire, this is really important, what you're saying here. And I hope any parents that are listening to this right now are really marinating in this principle and topic because I think there in lies so much opportunity to really help foster and develop and grow. Children. And it's really hard to not let that perfectionism creep into your parenting and you want to be, respected and viewed as the authoritative figure.

[00:21:45] I know I'm speaking for myself. And maybe others, when I say that, But to be able to, and we call it, let go and play right. On the show, but to be able to let go of those imperfections, and again, accept and build on [00:22:00] them too. Right. Because it happened and what.

[00:22:03] That's okay. But now I need to build, and I love the word repair that you're using there. Because again, going back to the am I ruining my child. There's no such thing as a perfect parent, but your ability to really. Just accept what happened, take ownership and then make it right. And try to repair that. I love that.

[00:22:23] And I've seen just the times I have chosen to do that with my children. It's just been such a positive experience. And in the long-term, as you said, I love. This idea of you're modeling a behavior that I think all parents want their children to have, which is, we're all gonna make mistakes.

[00:22:40] That's okay. Get back up, make it right and move forward and don't spend so much time dwelling on it. And I love that you brought that up. Thank you.

[00:22:49] Clair Mellenthin: [00:22:49] Oh, absolutely. I believe in it.

[00:22:53] Neal Hooper: [00:22:53] When you're there on the front lines making this happen and teaching it and seeing the results firsthand. So I can only imagine the [00:23:00] stories you must have working with children and parents and adults too, and all these principles. While we're on the subject of parent child relationships and how to approach that.

[00:23:12] We talked about a few things already, but I'm curious, what other expert advice or tips would you give parents on how to leverage the power of play? To help their children become their best selves.

[00:23:28] Clair Mellenthin: [00:23:28] Oh, this is my favorite thing to talk about because not only can play help a child become. Their best self, right? It doesn't mean they're the best at it, but their best self in it. And what play is also doing is says actually, it's a critical attachment meek in family life and in parent child relationships.

[00:23:51] And what that means is that we can actually create healthier, emotionally safer relationships when we are [00:24:00] playing together. And what happens, just neurologically if I nerd out for just a second but when we're playing together, when we're engaged in that spontaneous, joyful experience, and we're being silly and goofy and engaging, and you're not thinking about the report that's due to your boss or what you're going to make for dinner, and you're actually present with your child in that moment of delight.

[00:24:24] We have these huge burst of oxytocin that happened in our brain and oxytocin's job. That's really, its only job is to create neurological bonds of connection between the two people in that moment. And so what you're literally doing is you're creating new neural pathways in your brain and in your child is amazing and overwhelming to think about that.

[00:24:50] But our brains are these amazing. Amazing organisms. And there's so much power in that, but what we're also doing is [00:25:00] we're creating space to truly see one another and for a child to experience their parents just delighting in them for who they are as they are, where they are. There is nothing more powerful that you can do.

[00:25:17]To help build a sense of self and a sense of worth and a sense of belonging, then giving permission to let go and be in these moments together. And we know as your child gets older, it's harder and harder to find the time. And sometimes willingness of the child to do that,  we laugh and we're like, okay, there's forced family fun.

[00:25:39]With a lot of eye-rolling and like, I don't want to be with you. Cause I have a house full of teenagers who they would much rather go play with their friends and they have less permission to go do that because that part of their development is so critical to you and there's that and in there, and we also have to create space for this to happen.

[00:25:59] Not [00:26:00] just a parent child, but we also have to do that between partners. So my husband and I, what we find is when we have stopped giving that space to really be together and to play and to be spontaneous and silly and just laugh together, what we find as we are at much higher levels of friction. And there's a disconnect and we're like ships passing through the night as like I missing you.

[00:26:25] And like, literally I am missing you. That happens across the lifespan.

[00:26:30]Neal Hooper: [00:26:30] There is so much good in all of what you just shared and. It's something so important I love. And you use the same verbiage we do, right. Be present. It's simple, but it can be challenging. Right. And I think a lot of, just like you said, not letting your brain wander over into your professional life or the stresses of adulthood.

[00:26:53]And the busy-ness I love, you mentioned that earlier, the busy-ness often is what takes us out of  our [00:27:00] practice of play. And if we allow that busy-ness to creep in, we're missing each other, that is such a powerful visual. It's like you are in the same room, but you're not connecting. And that oxytocin getting into the psychology. I love that you shared that because that really helps us understand what's happening at a neurological level, but we can feel it. At an emotional level too, when we have those moments. As a parent, when you really do, let go of all the worries and you just get present with your child and there's the laughter and the imaginations are running wild.

[00:27:38] It's just, it's magic. That's how I would describe it. And I love how you pointed out exactly what's happening and why that's important with the oxytocin in that bond that's happening there because I think that's what most parents want is a bond. And I think that pays dividends later in life too at the later stages.

[00:27:57] Is that fair to say 

[00:27:58] Clair Mellenthin: [00:27:58] yeah, it [00:28:00] hugely, because, you think about like our whole goal as a parent, is to raise a child who is going to ultimately become a healthy, successful member of society. And who can launch and make it work in their world. And when we've created a foundation of health of security, And connection in our home.

[00:28:18] That also means when they launch and they leave, there's a place for them to come back to maybe not like physically, like we don't want them to move into our basement, but in the heart. And in that connection, there's a place to come back to. And so you can have those conversations cause their safety in there of like, mom, I lost, I don't know what to do or.

[00:28:40]My mom's favorite is we have really had lots of conversations that she laughs about when I'm like, I'm sorry, I was such a Brown when I was a teenager.

[00:28:51] But that, there's this moment, there's this, there's a built in security and safety for those emotional connections to last throughout the lifespan, [00:29:00] which is what we also want. Right? Like, It's so painful to be the adult who launched and because you launched, there's been that emotional consequences and there's not a safe place to come home to.

[00:29:15]And that can be devastating and so crippling and, again, as a parent, really thinking about like, why am I doing what I'm doing is so important. Cause it's natural and normal and we want to like bubble, wrap our kids and make them not have to go through hard things in life. And it's it's so painful when they are, and we feel so helpless to do something different.

[00:29:36] And I think, a lot of the behaviors and a lot of the ways that we parent is actually rooted in good intent, but it can have the opposite or Well, maybe opposite. I don't know. It can have

[00:29:49] Neal Hooper: [00:29:49] Unintended,

[00:29:50] Clair Mellenthin: [00:29:50] an unintended consequence to it. Yeah. Like if our message is the world is scary and you can't go explore and you can never leave home.

[00:29:57] And if you do, you're abandoning me, right? Like these [00:30:00] messages, they do get played out and then they become internalized versus, like that example of, Hey, the world is safe. We can make a mask for your Teddy bear shirt. He can wear my wedding. You can wear one. And we can still like. It's okay for us to be present in the world, even if it feels scary, like we got this, like that kind of messaging and empowering is so very different.

[00:30:23]And I think it's, again, it's like that idea of allowing for mistakes to happen, allowing your kids to have a voice and an opinion, even if you don't agree with it or appreciate it as that maybe But that again, we have to be mindful about who are we trying to help these kids become?

[00:30:41]Neal Hooper: [00:30:41] I love that question so much because it gets, it just cuts to the core. And I think informed so much of what you do and how you do it. So I know there are I tend to be. More on the playful side, it it comes naturally to me. Not always, there are definitely days. That's not the case. [00:31:00] And sometimes to my wife's chagrin or disdain when it's bedtime and I'm getting, kids riled up and that's not the moment to do that, but that aside I want to know your opinion on, parents that maybe it doesn't come naturally,  I'm not saying I'm perfect at it either, but just maybe for those where it's not natural or it just is uncomfortable to really let go and play.

[00:31:25]And leave those worries behind. We talked about being present and I'm sure mindfulness really helps with that. But do you have any other tips for that, that demographic who might fall into that category?

[00:31:36] Clair Mellenthin: [00:31:36] Yeah, adults who, who experienced that way. And part of this is it's you don't know what you don't know. If you haven't been taught it. I mean, some of this, goes back into our own childhoods and like how our parents engaged with us or, the family circumstances of how much, playfulness was allowed.

[00:31:57] And I think sometimes, there's personality, parts [00:32:00] of this. You may tend to be a little bit more serious or you might not really understand like, well why do I need to go do that? Like emotionally, even though it's like, intellectually like, okay, I'm being told to do this, but it doesn't really make sense emotionally.

[00:32:11]And the things that I would suggest for parents, is be curious about what's coming up for you in those moments to be curious about. For those of you who were raised in non playful homes, cause that happens right. And sometimes it just is what it is. But to be curious about what would it mean for me, if I let go and took the risk to be vulnerable and present with my child, what would it mean for me to sit down and shut off my phone and have a tea party? What would it mean for me to. Allow, a mess and to be okay with that. And sometimes, as adults, we may need some extra support and help and guidance and doing that. And I think that this is where it's so important to [00:33:00] make sure that you have a good support system in place and your own safe places especially when some of this may be rooted in your own childhood and in your own past experiences and relationships.

[00:33:12] I think not being afraid to look at that and seek out help and support when you need it. Especially, for the parents who are being the change makers and so many parents out there, you are the ones who are making the family change and saying, you know what? I don't want to repeat what I experienced and I am going to do something different and it's like, Going out on a journey without a map.

[00:33:38] And you're trying to like bushwhack your way of creating something different. You're breaking the chain of abuse or, the intergenerational transmission of some of the trauma that you've been exposed to. And I think in those circumstances, and to one degree or another, all of us are being change-makers as parents, cause we're really changing the next generation [00:34:00] as we learn more and understand more about brain behavior, the relationship.

[00:34:04] But I think, especially when it's the harder scarier parts of things that we're trying to change to not be afraid to seek out some extra help and support so that you're not alone in the journey of doing that.

[00:34:18] Neal Hooper: [00:34:18] That was beautiful. And. Happiness is a skill. I think playfulness is a skill too, and it takes practice. I love everything you shared. Thank you so much. So we talked about the parent child elements, and that was so good. I love that you mentioned, a partner or a significant other and the role that play has for a relationship in that regard.

[00:34:40] And so I would love to shift gears a little bit and dive deeper there too, because. And I love what you shared too, that you can feel that it's that same disconnect, right. If you're not taking time to, to be playful and present and in connect on that level with a significant other I think it has a similar impact.

[00:34:59] Is that fair to say

[00:35:00] [00:35:00] Clair Mellenthin: [00:35:00] Yeah, it is. It's so interesting when you can sit back and think about, when's the last time, like we just did something fun together. When's the last time we just laughed together. And if it's been a moment, like a little season in your relationship, it usually, you can feel it because you start to feel disconnected.

[00:35:21] You start to feel more lonely, I think, in, in your partnership. And it's easier for the little things become big things because you don't have the safety of connection present in that moment with you. And so. One of the things, with adults, whether it's friendships or romantic relationships but as to allow for playfulness to be part of the relationship and sometimes in adulthood, that's more. A traditionally structured activity, like, okay, like, let's go take a fun cooking class together, or let's go on a hike together. Let's but the idea is we're doing it together and we're [00:36:00] creating these new novel experiences. And sometimes especially after a rough patch or you're in the middle of some repair work, having something new to focus on.

[00:36:11] And connecting can be some of the most important parts of healing. So you're not staying stuck in the things that have happened before. And it's like we're finding each other all over again and remembering like, Oh yeah, this is why I liked you. This is why we decided to be together, and.

[00:36:31] And remembering what it feels like, to see the sparkle and the twinkle in your partner's eyes, or to hear that belly laugh when it's just like that spontaneous, just joy in that moment. And those same neurological neuro biological factors are coming into play then where it's like, even if it's just these glimpses, we're having these moments of connection again.

[00:36:52] And this is where we can start to repair my build. When we feel like our house of cards got knocked down a little bit, or maybe we're, we're missing something in our [00:37:00] foundation. And those, of the listeners who aren't in a relationship right now, clay is still so critical for connection and to build friendships and a community.

[00:37:09]And I think that, this is where getting outside of yourself. In the sense really can make such a big difference in how you're feeling about your life, how you're feeling about yourself, as well as what you can contribute, and bringing joy and connection in somebody else's life.

[00:37:28] Neal Hooper: [00:37:28] Wow. And it really is so universally applicable, isn't it play is just enhances enhances every interaction and the concepts there. And we teach, let, go and play as a principle. And I'm putting you on the spot now. But I'm just curious in your opinion, what are the things that we're letting go of that allow us to play?

[00:37:54] Clair Mellenthin: [00:37:54] So it's letting go of your defense mechanisms and that fear of vulnerability [00:38:00] and showing up. That allows us to really connect in and play in for a lot of humans. That is not a comfortable thing. It's actually terrifying. Right. And this is where things like, for some people it's so interesting, like where they can do a lot of theater work and they can be this big boisterous, brave, vulnerable person on stage.

[00:38:22] Where they can let parts of themselves come out. And then as soon as they're off the stage, they revert back to, a more protective stance in their everyday life. But you know, the same process is happening, but I think finding your Avenue for them, outlet of what feels safe enough, what feels good enough?

[00:38:42] What feels playful enough? Is going to vary from person to person, and yet we all need it so much. And so desperately.

[00:38:52] Neal Hooper: [00:38:52] Oh, these are just man. I am. I'm just trying to, I'm [00:39:00] seeing if I can block out the next three hours. my calendar, I don't know about you, but well, we can keep going. This is so good. Claire. This has been so amazing and you've already shared so many amazing, tangible concepts with us. We do ask every guest that comes on , one last question, and that is what pro tip can you share with us about applying any of the principles we've discussed?

[00:39:30] Clair Mellenthin: [00:39:30] I think part of this. Comes from Yoda, right? Like there is no try, just do, and I, butchered that, but that part of starting to include and bringing play into your life yes. To start it and, go so by every member in your family and Nerf gun and go have a battle, like start it right where it doesn't have to be.

[00:39:57]Like, okay, I'll wait until we go on our family [00:40:00] vacation and then we'll go play in the ocean. No, like you start it now and get permission for it to happen now. And that is scary. And it's vulnerable to do that, especially if it hasn't been part of what has been present. Right. But I think in these small little ways, you just have to dip your toe in first. And so, having an ice cream party night, one night for dessert, where you just bust out, like, as okay, here's five different kinds of ice cream, and we're going to have all these toppings and we're just going to go play in this, right? Like it's just these spontaneous,  fun moments together.

[00:40:39] And every home and every family and every person that's going to like differently, for some families, it's gonna look like playing a board game for some families, it's gonna look like taking a hike for some families is going to, be a full-out Nerf battle.

[00:40:52] And but what's happening is you're allowing yourself to be present in that moment with the people you care most about. And for those of you who [00:41:00] are listening, who aren't in that life spot right now, like that's not part of your life or you're single, or, you're in more of like just the adult world.

[00:41:08] And outside of family life, what I would encourage you to do is actually something similar, find something that looks interesting and signup, yeah. Something new that you haven't done, or something that you used to love to do that you've forgotten. Even in the midst of this pandemic that we have, there are so many places, even if it's remotely where you can find connection with other people.

[00:41:31] And I think that's really what. We're all yearning for and looking for, and this is just an Avenue to do it.

[00:41:37]Neal Hooper: [00:41:37] that is so important. And I love what you're sharing. And getting really clear about what quote unquote play might look like because we hear play. And we might have, I have an idea, we're going outdoors and we're throwing a ball, but I love the example of an ice cream party, right.

[00:41:54] Just that spontaneity, that presence that that. Just being together [00:42:00] intentionally is a great way to foster that same connection. And that is at its core, a version of play as well. I'm grateful that you brought that into it. Claire, thank you so much. This has been amazing. We want to make sure our audience can find you.

[00:42:16] How do we connect with you? Where do we go to get more of this amazing concept, the play therapy and Claire

[00:42:26] Clair Mellenthin: [00:42:26] So you can always find me online. My website is just Claire Mellon, and you're welcome to follow me on social media. I have several platforms that I'm on. And those of you who are local to salt Lake city, I'm just over at Westside family therapy. And so you can always find me locally as well.

[00:42:43] Neal Hooper: [00:42:43] That is awesome. And we will definitely put all of the social links in the show notes and the website and all that. Goodness. Claire. It has been an absolute delight. I mean that, thank you so much for coming on, taking time out of your day to share all of this goodness with us [00:43:00] and help us develop that coveted skill of happiness.

[00:43:04] Thank you so much.

[00:43:06] Clair Mellenthin: [00:43:06] Thanks so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.

[00:43:09]  Neal Hooper: [00:43:10] Wow. Isn't Claire just delightful. This conversation with Claire was, as I mentioned, just the total paradigm shift for me and my life. And I hope it inspired you as well. This week prioritize, play. Whether it's your children. If you're a parent. Friends family members, or even strangers who might need a spark of light in their day. 

[00:43:35] Be present and spontaneous with those around you and leverage the power of play to connect with everyone in your sphere of influence. 

[00:43:47]Practice happiness this week and never forget that happiness is a skill and life is a team sport. Catch you next week.  

Calling all parents and caretakers! On today's show we sit down with Stephanie Whiting to discuss PLAY THEORY and parenting. We chat about parenting, marriage, anxiety, shyness, and performing and how PLAY THEORY positively impacts ALL of them! Such good content...

Stephanie is an amazing warrior momma of 6 kids (5 girls, 1 boy)…She loves spending time with her family. She’s a running, soccer, hiking, reading, and musical theater enthusiast. Her and her family recently bought a ranch and they love riding their horses into the sunset and caring for all 16 horses that are at their property. Stephanie is also the Momager for her her kid’s music group called Torch family music (see link below). 

This Week’s PRO TIP is: Take note of your day-to-day application of PLAY THEORY principles in a journal. Reflect on the experiences you’ve had and how you can better apply them in the future. This intentional reflection and application of the principles will help you exercise the muscle of happiness!

Life is a team sport! Come join the conversation and play with us!


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