Playtime between a parent and a child creates a deep emotional bond. It’s the bond that sets the path for joyful, creative, cooperative times by being together. Adults seem to shun fun and games in their daily lives. As adults, we often get so caught up in “grown up” business that we can forget how to have pure fun. Some parents just don’t know how to play with their children or feel they don’t have the time. It’s no wonder – most parents work a full-time job and feel drained with little or no energy at the end of the day to feel playful. If only parents knew how much playtime shapes their family life, more parents would welcome it. They would come to know that it recharges their adult batteries!
Most parents played as children. Parents experienced being silly, laughing at nothing, playing games on their own or with their peers. Why is it that parents today have forgotten how to play? Why do parents feel like outsiders or simply ignore this way of communicating with their children? Parents make sure their children are loved, comforted, safe, fed, and sheltered; but when it comes to playing, most parents can’t seem to get in the swing of it. Our society in general doesn’t take playing very seriously either. Most play professionals such as day-care providers, after school program teachers, recreation department workers and camp counselors are paid very low wages for the really important work they do for our children’s lives.
These workers are treated more as baby-sitters than experts on children and play.
Playtime is a rewarding time for a fresh, renewed look at life. It’s the time when a zestfulness of living takes place. When a parent plays with his child, there is a deep heart-to-heart vibration that can overcome all the day’s stresses and frustrations. Participating in your child’s playtime arena, whether it’s on the floor, eye-to-eye, sitting next to each other or across a table, creates enjoyment and spontaneity, happiness, and an opportunity to interact as no other activity can. Years of research has shown that successful parenting is when there is a sensitive response to their child’s needs. This response includes physical contact, smiling faces, eye contact, and communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
Some of my clients have said, “My family members need to feel more connected. We seem to be disconnected and going in different directions.” Playing helps build that connection and communication so vital to a loving family environment. Parents can try to remember and reconnect with that part of themselves that knows how to be in the flow of fun. Asking a child to play with you and then allowing your child to lead you to what they want to play and how they want to play, is the first step to creating a deep connection. Hide-and-seek, tag, chasing, wrestling, fantasy play, sports, pillow fights, art projects, racing, etc. are games that all children like. You can start by knowing that anything can be fun, especially doing it together.
Here are five ways to be a more lighthearted parent:
1. Lead the way – ask your children what type of activity they would like to do with you. Talk it over and accept an activity that will bring both of you a feeling of gladness. Think about what caused you to giggle as a child. Children like rules – start the game with, “OK, if we play there will be no giggling or blinking!” Then pretend to fuss when your child breaks these rules! Let the games begin!
2. Loosen up – playtime is just that: play and time. Don’t worry about messiness, noise, or commotion. Just remember to let the play flow and follow it along. As long as you hear silly giggles, howls of joy, see happy smiles, then you know that this playtime session is a success.
3. Encourage Your Children – Understand that when you play with your child it encourages strong feelings of excitement, exuberance, joy, as well as frustrations, anxiousness, jealousy, and embarrassment. Get a handle on these emotions by knowing that these emotions should be freely expressed rather than having them buried and held inside. So take time out during your playtime to stand back and remind your child that having these feelings is okay, that being angry or being joyful are emotions that are acceptable. This creates a deep connection between you. After all, play is a child’s way of expressing themselves and their emotions.
4. Be Playful with Your Children – Use a voice that is relaxed and goofy. Step outside of your everyday stern parent style and start to feel the energy of play. Choose games that allow you to give your children encouragement, inspire their confidence, allows for their need of attachment and closeness. Give your children your complete attention accompanied with love, hugs and affection. Always promote win-win situations in the games you play and have a good time!
5. Be Lighthearted – Being lighthearted while playing with your child actually adds to your life and brings you time. Playtime is rejuvenating. You may have to push yourself at first, but very soon thereafter, you will feel, understand and want to play as the payoff is well worth it.
To help your batteries feel recharged after your exhausting day at work, take the initiative to spend more together time with your children, even if it only means hugging them, talking to them, being with them at the end of the day. Bring up everyone’s spirits by telling them how much they mean to you and what you most appreciate about each family member. Create a healthy, energetic connection today that your children will remember for the rest of their lives.
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