Psychologist emphasises the important role of quality play in children

Dr Sibusiso Ntshangase in discussion with Mroza Buthelezi of Sasko Siyasizana. Picture: Supplied

Dr Sibusiso Ntshangase in discussion with Mroza Buthelezi of Sasko Siyasizana. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 14, 2024


By Cebolethu Shinga

In recognition of Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, IOL interviewed Dr Sibusiso Ntshangase, to discuss the crucial topics of positive play and parenting in boy children.

Ntshangase shared his expert insights on the importance of better-quality play and positive play experiences for children aged up to eight years, especially boys.

He described quality play as an important development for children as it allows them to explore, experiment, and express themselves freely.

“It helps support cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth by developing problem-solving skills, nurturing creativity, and enhancing critical thinking abilities” said Ntshangase.

He also mentioned that quality play also teaches children how to interact with others, understand social norms, and manage their emotions effectively, ultimately contributing to their overall wellbeing and future success.

“Engaging in activities that require hand-eye coordination and precision, such as writing and dressing themselves, helps children develop their fine motor skills,” he said.

Ntshangase stressed the importance of positive play for boys, emphasising how engaging in these experiences can have a significant impact on their social, emotional, and mental development.

“By engaging in positive play experiences, boys learn how to navigate complex social interactions, regulate their emotions, and understand the feelings and perspectives of others,” said Ntshangase.

He also mentioned that parents face challenges in promoting healthy play due to societal pressures and limited access to resources. He said traditional gender roles often discourage boys from exploring creative and nurturing play forms.

He said initiatives like Sasko Siyasizana help mitigate these challenges. Limited resources, such as financial constraints or lack of recreational spaces, can also hinder access to healthy play opportunities. Parents may need to seek alternative options for safe and enriching play experiences.

“Overcoming these obstacles may require parents to seek out community programs, scholarships, or alternative options that can provide their boys with access to safe and enriching play experiences,” explains Ntshangase.

The SASKO Siyasizana community initiative aims to positively impact children in Early Childhood Development Centres and primary schools by 2030 by building and upgrading playgrounds throughout Mzansi.

Ntshangase claimed that gender roles and mental health intersect in complex ways, especially for boys. He said boys are often socialised to suppress emotions and conform to traditional masculine norms, leading to a toxic environment.

“As a result, boys may be more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, but less likely to seek treatment or talk openly about their feelings. This can have serious consequences for their overall wellbeing and can contribute to a cycle of emotional suppression and unhealthy coping mechanisms,” he said.

He stressed how important it is for society to challenge these rigid gender norms and encourage boys to express their emotions, seek help when needed, and prioritise their mental health.

“By promoting a more inclusive and supportive environment for boys to explore their emotions and vulnerabilities, we can help break down harmful stereotypes and promote healthier attitudes towards mental health for all individuals.”

Additionally, Ntshangase advised parents to balance traditional masculine norms and values with emotional expression and vulnerability by openly discussing these topics with their children, modelling behaviour they want, and providing experiences for children to explore their identity, including traditional gender roles and expectations. This helps children develop a well-rounded understanding of themselves and the world.

IOL Lifestyle