Healing Relationships and Communication Between Children, Young People and Their Parents

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Healing relationships & communication between children, young people and their parents/carers

Donna Berry – Founder at Interplay Play Therapy Australia

“Bringing unconscious, conscious, developing self-understanding and reconnection to self and each other whilst synchronizing and attuning. The recipe for the development of secure attachment” – Donna Berry

Donna Berry is a pioneer, a life-changer and a leader. She is a qualified social worker, play therapist, family therapist, play therapy supervisor and has worked with children and families for over 27 years, helping them establish the language of trust by improving their connection with each other. Her work is valuable, transformative and empowering.

Early Life
She grew up in a world where there were several different generational beliefs. On the one hand she experienced ground-breaking notions about feminism, yet on the other hand it was a world where women were supposed to be seen and not heard. It was still a man’s world, after all.

She lived in a house with three generations of family and was lucky enough to see and feel it all. Women in her family had worked hard for equal rights, wanting the same recognition as men with equal pay for equal work, driven by a scarcity mindset and wanting the safety of having a permanent job. Her grandmother, who lived with them, believed that women were best suited to parenting, so expectations for Donna’s future were mixed. When she reflects on her past, though, Donna points out that she studied to be a social worker – a job that was secure and one that was also part of the women’s feminist movement. Interestingly enough, her mother was a social worker too.

“We could start the nature versus nurture debate, but being from a large family of all girls, my dream was to become a parent. The excitement of my wants, wishes and desires were coupled with fear of the female juggling act, expectations and need for a sense of financial security,” she recalls.


The Missing Piece

Throughout her childhood and from an early age, she would watch and listen to those she
loved. Surely there was a missing piece! What was it? She had what is known as an “empire mindset” not only in business but in life, and wondered why she was expected to make any choices or sacrifices. She had the capacity for it all. She came to realise early on that there is no such a thing as good or bad, everything has equal charge, it’s just the way we see it!

“Let me explain,” she adds. “Being the best parent I could possibly be, was one thing I knew I would never sacrifice. This was and always will be my main priority in life. I realised very early on in life that success is measured only one way (for me at least). It was and is measured through the number of unconditional relationships I was able to develop and sustain in life and in business.”

The Meaning of Success

“Let me explain,” she adds. “Being the best parent I could possibly be, was one thing I knew I would never sacrifice. This was and always will be my main priority in life. I realised very early on in life that success is measured only one way (for me at least). It was and is measured through the number of unconditional relationships I was able to develop and sustain in life and in business.”

“In the early days of becoming a parent, I made some careful and conscious decisions. Let me explain what I mean by that. My success can only be measured by me, only I’m important, being my own self-critic. I knew this was a good way to measure myself. My highest order in life was to be a mum, and to raise children who were well-rounded individuals who felt safe and secure enough to be authentic, who were connected and weren’t tarnished by the world’s views or those of others. Children who could see that the sky has no limit, and that anything is possible.”

For this to be achieved, Donna realised that, as a young parent, she had to balance her life, so she devoted five years to being a stay-at-home mum. The entrepreneur in her was still very much alive, though, and every day she planned her next adventure. Preparing for her empire, she balanced motherhood and worked hard to develop secure attachments with her four children, something she knew would serve them well in later life and help them to see the world through the hoped-for lens; that they are loveable, they are enough and that the sky has no limits.

This was Donna’s mission in life, because she feels that unconditional relationships are
the greatest gift we can give each other. They are the gift that keeps on giving.

“I have achieved a lot in life and people know me for my business achievement, but seriously, that is not the biggest. My children are my biggest achievement. They are all close to adulthood now, and I see in them the seed I planted, the seed of limitless love. It’s not just coincidence that they are all reaching for the stars, either in motherhood or life’s dreams, one being torn by a job after completing Atar versus her longing to be an entrepreneur. My twin boys are 16 now, both living in the UK pursuing their dreams, one in music and one in soccer! You see, we are no ordinary family. It’s the seeds I planted, giving them the optimal conditions they needed to grow. No, I’m not perfect, anything but, but I am committed.”


Feminessence® = Balance

Donna equates the notion of Feminessence® with achieving a sense of balance in her life,
knowing that there are no limits, only the ones she creates herself. She is proud to be a woman, and proud to have all the parts which make her a whole person – an amazing balance of good and bad, happy and sad, gentle and fierce, loud and quiet.

“I’m not perfect, but then, no-one is, but I am able to see my balance. Some people might have a polarised view of me depending on what they are seeing and how they know me…home, work or play! It’s so cool to be all parts, though. My family sees all parts of me. They know me really well. Home is my sacred place, a place where any part of me is accepted. This has become intertwined throughout my life, adapting to what’s needed; building an empire whilst being the secure base for those I love. Roots are what’s required for anything I build.”

“I do not for one minute believe that I am less than, or less able or capable than anyone else in life. If any day I do give in to thoughts like that, I remember the meaning of being a woman and all that god gave us.”


Interplay International: Changing the World, one Relationship at a Time

She does not accept the idea of comparing one person to another in the world, as no two
stories are the same. The company she founded, Interplay International, adopted this belief as an integral part of its business philosophy. She developed a modality that helps people understand themselves, their experiences and how they shape their life and relationships. This was her opportunity to give people what they hadn’t previously had; to help free them to become who they were born to be.

Donna knows that the first three years of one’s life shape who we become. If that’s the case, she thought, maybe she could reorganize this experience so that they could become whoever they longed to be?

And that’s exactly what Interplay does.

When Donna stepped out on the day Interplay was launched, she knew it could have gone two ways. She remembers feeling vulnerable, but excited in a weird sort of way. So when you ask her what Feminessence® means to her, she thinks it’s perhaps the vulnerability of not knowing, of not being sure – but going ahead anyway!

Many years ago, she worked with vulnerable children and families, and realised something both important and life changing. Maybe she was blessed to have had parents who could love, but she had witnessed so many families that were sharing stories of not having had anyone to love them. What she discovered was that they were finding it hard to love.

This then became her mission, to give the world what had been missing – a way to find safe relationships and unconditional love. Interplay was developed and became global in just under two years. She realised that no matter what country, culture, religion or sex, everyone needs this.

Maybe this was a universal need, she thought. Perhaps the seed she planted in her children she could sow in others? So that is what she did.


Transforming Lives

How has her work changed lives? It’s hard to put into words, she says. Every day she receives messages from people telling me how she’s changed their life, keeping them alive when they were running out of hope and helping them to see what is needed for their family to thrive.

“We have so many plans, all of which will be focused on relationships and connection, giving the world what’s missing. Interplay is just one of my many businesses, but the most integral to my mission of creating global change. When I said earlier that I don’t have any limits, I mean this. I will be loud when people need me to be their voice and quiet when people need me to hear them. Life and business is a fine balance of active listening, listening to what’s said, but more importantly what is not said. This is where I become very interested. I love putting words to an unspoken experience, it’s very, very powerful.”

“I feel so privileged to have been accepted into people’s lives, usually people who have no
reason to trust the world, never mind relationships. Those are people the world/society views as hopeless, not competent or able, or those that are considered to be on the road to nowhere. Maybe, I thought, if I could pave the way, they could take the steps. And this is what I see, day in, day out.”

Being a Leader, Creating Silent Change

Donna takes the role of a leader very seriously. Being a leader, to Donna, is someone who helps people to see what exists inside of them, what they are worthy of and that they have unlimited capacity. She is a leader who does not want followers but who grows other leaders. Safe secure relationships are the underpinnings of change, so as a leader that’s her priority. She feels that we don’t need a world full of people who are creating change in parliament, we need a world full of people on a grassroots level creating silent change.

This is actually how global, systemic change occurs.

She can be loud, too, when needed.

“As a leader, stepping up and stepping out is one of my mottos. Great things happen outside our comfort zone, so I’m always using my last achievement as my base line. Fear can be a great thing, especially now that I can regulate through it! I enter into uncomfortable feelings or situations; this is where true magic happens. If I don’t, who will? Leading the way, paving the way is my plan.”


Future Plans

And what are her plans for the future of Interplay and her other businesses?

“Interplay will become part of every organisation I work with and every service I offer, making it accessible to all. It will become not only a curative modality but a preventive method, changing lives and healing intergenerational trauma. Donna wants the world to realise that safe relationships heal, both at home and at work. If we want to create a more harmonious world, where we reduce abuse, violence and pain, we must increase connection. If we keep doing what we’ve always done and try to change people’s behaviour without meeting their unmet needs, we will continue to have the same results – and no change will take place.”

“I would love some big players, some large corporations, to help fund my lifelong dream of
creating a Homes of Hope in every town, in every county. I see this as a home run by a house mother, a home full of love, stability, predictability, connection, unconditional love and acceptance; a place where families can come and stay and have access to what’s required, that is, safe relationships. Only then will the true magic happen.”


We are also taking a show on the road called The Couch Club. It’s our newest concept where we will have deep conversations, interviews and stories for the world to hear, for connections to develop and for people to feel no longer alone. We will install hope, because without hope we have nothing!”


We can change the world; we just need to understand what’s needed!’ – Donna Berry




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