Parenting Advice from a Play Therapist | Gelly Asovski

Mothers of Misfits00:01

Welcome to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Join me for conversations about how to advocate for our kids in a one size fits all world. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode!

Emily Melious00:18

Welcome back everyone to another episode of Mothers of Misfits. Today, we are joined by Gelly Asovski. She is a child and family therapist, EMDR consultant and registered play therapy supervisor who specializes in play therapy. Gelly has been in practice for 20 years, she's a mom of two, and one being a misfit kid.

She's also a grandma of two and loves enjoying life to its fullest every day. Gelly, thank you for coming on.

Gelly Asovski00:49

I'm so excited to be there. I love what you're doing.

Emily Melious00:52

Oh, thank you. That means so much. And I love what you're doing. I mean, playing as a career just sounds like so much fun, although I know I'm oversimplifying it, but


Play is the Answer (1:03)

just dive right in because you say that play is the answer to lots of problems that we have in our homes.

Gelly Asovski01:11


Emily Melious01:11

Can you tell us more about that?

Gelly Asovski01:13

Absolutely. You know, I've been practicing for a long, long time. I spent 18 years working part-time in a clinic, so had exposure to very many different types of families, cultures, socioeconomic standards and then I'm in private practice part-time for about 10 years and the past three years it's been full-time.

So I just seen so much and no matter what's going on in your family, if you sit down and play with your kids, life will be better because plays a child's first language when a child is born, what do they know? They see the world through the experiences we create and that's how they learn about the world.

What do we do when we want to talk? When we go to therapy? We say, hi, I'm here because X, Y, and Z is going on. I need help. My spouses, you know, driving me nuts. My kids are out of control, yada, yada, yada, what did kids do? They play! They don't naturally show up and say so Gelly... Here's what I want to tell you about what's going on in my life.

They go to the playroom and they start playing.

Emily Melious02:35

Oh, I love that. And I absolutely love that. You talk about play being a child's first language. In the work that I do, I get to uncover oftentimes for our families about their kids, their child's most instinctive way of operating. And it's primal. It's built in, it's hard wired. They're born with that. And so it's really their truest form of themselves because when we're free to operate, according to our instincts and play is instinctive, right?

It's our first way of interacting with the world. It's pure. It's an violated if you will. And then language is something we learn. It's a skill we develop and, it's an important thing. It's a different part of our brain, but I just love that you can see so much more about a child and maybe, maybe adults, if we could allow ourselves to be free like that again, it can tell you so much more.

So I'm really curious to hear from you. When would a family know to engage someone like you.


When to find a Play Therapist (3:40)

issues might they be having or observations they might see in their child that would make them think? Hmm, I really think this is a good time to engage with a play therapist.

Gelly Asovski03:51

You know, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation is really sadly a big issue with misfits,

um, divorces. I just parents, sadly don't realize how kids get stuck in the middle of two adults that are fighting. And it really causes a lot of pain. Okay. Anger management. That's a real big one.

Since COVID, anxiety is through the roof with kids, bullying, and then your car accidents, your medical issues, fires, sexual abuse. It's the gamut, but if your child needs help, my message is that your kid is not always going to come out and say, mom therapists, I have a problem... "help me!"

it's probably going to come out as depression or misbehavior, anger, or attitude. And that's where I always see the parents first.

Emily Melious04:56

to Ah-huh.

Gelly Asovski04:57

I know what's going on. Cause without that information, you can only analyze the kid's play if you actually know the story behind it. If not, it can mean a million things, but a child who's struggling or going through something... play therapy is a real gift.

Emily Melious05:16

Is there an age at which we cap it. Does someone age out of play therapy?

Gelly Asovski05:23

Sure. when we mentioned the word play, parents tend to think of 10 and younger. Okay. I'm going to ask you as a mom. What do you think with play? You go...

Emily Melious05:35

That's exactly where I went to maybe more elementary and younger, maybe nonverbal, kiddos, or toddlers.

Gelly Asovski05:42

Right. So in the world of play therapy, different therapists specialize in different ages.

So that's why I say I'm a child and family therapist, because if you come in at 10 years old and you don't want to play with a doll house or in the sand tray, we can play games.

I actually have a game in my office. It's called chess for dummies. I deliberately have not learned how to play chess well, And the kids love it. Chess dummies your a dummy, right? I'm a dummy at chess. You are a hundred percent, right. And I say, teach me. And that is a form of therapy because in the play we're talking about lots of things. And lots of values, we're talking about building self-esteem, I see kids flipping the boards, whether it's candy connect, uno uh, they get upset. didn't win.

Cause I can't always let them win because otherwise that's not helpful. We have to be reality based. And sometimes I can't help it. Like with connect four, I'm a master. played 20 years now... I can't help myself. I set up triple traps.

Emily Melious06:58

I love it. Yeah. And that sounds akin to what happens in our household around game-playing. I'm a pretty competitive person. Although too funny. Our oldest son was gifted the chess for dummy set for his birthday. And we actually it's on our coffee table right now. We have nightly chess games and he schools me.

He's really good, but I tend to win some of the other games. So he, you know, ends up kind of balancing itself out. But I love that healthy competition among family members. And as you're talking, I'm just thinking about. This concept of play and spending time with our kids. And it's reminding me of something someone said to me, or I've heard somewhere along the way that love is spelled T I M E.

Gelly Asovski07:47


Emily Melious07:47

And that's what I'm getting from this. Is just that reinforcement of, you know, as a parent where, gosh, we're overwhelmed. As you said, if you're a misfit parent, you're super overwhelmed, we're questioning everything. We're not sure what to do next, but if all I need to do at the end of the day is spend time with my kids.

I can do that. I don't have to all this theory. I don't have to do all these five steps things. I don't know. I don't have to memorize something. And I'm just hearing from you. Time. More time is always going to be better and have fun, laugh together. So me say, let me just ask you this question, cause I can see you're ready to jump in on that, but

What does playful parenting look like? (8:31)
Emily Melious08:31

What does playful parenting like, like in really practical terms?

Gelly Asovski08:37

It's taking the time you have any way with your children. So you're waking them up in the morning. You're getting to the breakfast table. You're on the carpool line. You're getting your kids to the bus. Two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, 10 seconds. You're interacting with your children anyway. Be playful.

Being mindful of those opportunities really will enhance the play level in your family. My little grandson is very playful and obviously my daughter was raised by me. So, um, she's, using my playful parenting with a terrible twos. He doesn't want to get dressed. He runs away from her. So she called me, she says, mommy, I used to game, I heard you talking about... I was like, do share!

And she said, well, we made his pants. Um, the wheels of a car and his shirt is the car. So every morning he wants to put on his car and his wheels and he wants to beat the horn for the sleeves.

So what is it? And I said, that's so creative. Right. The idea of taking something that could be a discipline issue and normal, I'm not even talking about misfit out of control. I'm really saying the every day situations, when you're with your kids drop out of your head, stop being a military commander and instructing your kids to do stuff. To get the homework done, to go eat dinner, get in the bath, get in a bed. Become playful. Play. We do the bunny hop going to bed or going to the bath.

Right. It's gonna make your day go better because you'll feel calmer. Right? Like your blood pressure goes down. When you're like, okay. Versus your blood pressure going up and out through the roof because you kids not listening. It's about redirecting. And just going into play.

Emily Melious10:46

I love that it's therapy for both you and your child,

Gelly Asovski10:50


Emily Melious10:50

because you're right. It brings us down from a high level point, aggravated, frustrated, angry, and it forces us to be positive and creative and calm in that moment. And what a great example for our kids to approach challenges or frustrations with creativity and fantasy and fun. And we talk all the time on this podcast about leading by example. So I just, gosh, it sounds so simple, but yet so powerful.

And I love that you bring up that example of when the two year old is having a fit, because I was thinking, play sounds really easy when everybody's in a good mood, but what happens when things are falling off the rails.

I mean, can you give us some examples? Like I'm thinking dinnertime, dinnertime is a stress point in our house. How can you dinnertime more playful?

Gelly Asovski11:44

Okay. So I think one of the things is that you really want to think about what your child's into.

So if your child's into Cops and Robbers, that's the theme. Right? If your kid's into a book series, like when my kids were young, Uh, we loved Froggy Goes To Bed by Jonathan London. He has a ton of books and we read that and read that until I thought I was going to go crazy... right?

Emily Melious12:16

Yes. I think, gosh, when I'm 90, I can recite Dr. Seuss books.

Gelly Asovski12:20

Right. So froggy joined us at breakfast, lunch and snack. And we did a lot of flopping as frogs throughout the house get to do things we needed to do.

You can also make food creative. I had kids, my kids would set the table with me. We do the salad, you know, the chicken would become hair and the vegetables would become a smile and ears. We'd just be eating as we were going about the process of playing.

Emily Melious12:55

I love that. Oh, those are great little tidbits. We can all. Do little pieces of that and, have fun with that. We also love in our household, we have a deck of cards, not playing cards, but there are question cards. I know the adult version of this is called table topics. They might have a version for kids, but questions.

So while you're eating your dinner, you know, if you had to go on a jungle safari, but could only pack three things, what would you take? And if you know, you could only eat one meal forever now on what would it be? And that's been

fun too!

Gelly Asovski13:26

I love that, I want I want that info. I really liked that.

Emily Melious13:31

Well, I will, we'll see, uh, actually for everybody listening, we'll see if we can find something like that and we'll put a link to it in the episode insider's newsletter, which I'm going to tell you a little bit more about in a minute.

Gelly Asovski13:41


Emily Melious13:41

I have one last question for you, Gelly, and that is why do we lose our playfulness, the older we get?

Gelly Asovski13:49

Mm that's a very powerful question. I'll try to bottle that in a minute of an answer.

Emily Melious13:56

I know we probably needed to have our own separate episode on that.

Gelly Asovski14:01


Emily Melious14:01

But why is it so hard for parents and adults to be playful when that was our first language, when we were that kid who did it so naturally.

Gelly Asovski14:10

Sure. Sure. So the quick answer is based on research, right? Um, the research of working with trauma is all about understanding the negative beliefs that underpin and hook us into how we perceive. Okay. So taking that information when you're six years old or when let's talk about being a two year old and you say something funny or silly and you feel shame, but everybody laughs.

That's your first. We all have that story somewhere. Then you learn that about shame. Right? Think about the kid who comes in. You know, not dressed appropriately, not going into details... whatever happened.

Emily Melious14:58


Gelly Asovski14:59

And everybody goes right?

And the kid knows he's doing something wrong. She's doing something wrong. And the adults are laughing. Right?

So a kid gets bullied.

These messages say: I need to grow up. I need to hide. I need to disconnect.

And so we start disconnecting from our natural playfulness.

Emily Melious15:23

And I would sum all of that up as we get to cognitive, you know, our learned behaviors, override our instincts and that sense of appropriateness or social risk and what we should do, what we're taught to do. And there, again, a whole other episode, we could have a conversation about that, how it really can we create a box for ourselves.

So thank you for reminding us today. That play is actually our nature.

Gelly Asovski15:51



Emily Melious15:52

And, um, growing out of it is a nurture factor. So,

An offer from Gelly (15:56)
Emily Melious15:56

one last thing I want to let our audience know that you have an awesome offering for everyone listening today. And that's a free download of The Five Ways To Keep Your Kids Entertained Without Tech, amen to that.

And so we're going to put a link to where they can go and download that resource in our episode insider's newsletter. So if you don't know what that is, And just the newsletter that we send out, we send it out once a week we give you insider info on our guests. So we tell you a little bit more about gelee and what she's up to and the cool thing she is doing and how to get in touch with her.

Then in these instances where they offer something to us, we make sure you know about it and that you're the first to know about it. So please sign up for that. If you are not already go to and you'll where to sign up right there, it's going to take you truly 30 seconds or less.

Gelly Asovski16:48

I'm signing up. I didn't know that you had a newsletter like that, by the way.

Emily Melious16:53

Thank you. I'm so glad you're signing up and you'll get to see all about you this comes out, which is, which is kinda cool. Right?

Gelly Asovski17:01


Emily Melious17:02

Well, thank you so much and tell your friends, I mean, let others know about this resource the coolest thing about this podcast and selfishly, I love it for my, for me, is that we're building a community here, a community of listeners and moms and advocates and a community of experts.

We have people that have come on and shared their expertise from all different backgrounds and perspectives and countries. And so, you know, this is a resource that all of us should be tapping into.

And if nothing else, I'd kind of like a record of the guests in my inbox. I think that'd be awesome. I can just go back to and remind myself who was on and if we need the help, we can go straight to them.

So Gelly, this has been awesome. I'm so glad that came on as strangers and now we part as friends, not only between us, but with everybody listening to this episode.

You're amazing. Thanks for the work that you're doing and reminding us to add more play to our lives.

Gelly Asovski18:01

Thank you. Happy kids. Happy families.

Emily Melious18:05

So true.

Mothers of Misfits18:06

Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. We also invite you to visit us at

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