Sometimes you come across something and it’s like a gift. There are the days that I believe all of us have as parents where we feel like we have fallen short. At the end of the day, have you ever asked yourself if you’ve connected with your child? Have you regretted that you did not play with them for even a few minutes? Do you feel like there is a continental divide between you and your teen, tween, or even littler one? Do you feel like there is a galactic divide between your two children and each other or that each person is an island in your home? Enter Dr. Laura Marhkam, Clinical Psychologist, and some wonderful tips/”games” she suggests for connecting and reconnecting with your child and family in her article titled “Playing with Your Child: Games for Connection and Emotional Intelligence.”
First of all though, Dr. Markham reminds parents that play is children’s work. Children work through and process their different feelings from the day through play. Markham states that in particular, children need physical play to work out all their pent up feelings. When their bodies are charged up emotionally, they need a healthy release for it. Physical play with children and all the giggling, sweating, and screaming that come with it, help them release negative stress hormones. Otherwise, this is where tantrums come into play or other negative activities. As children also learn through play, the lesson or message of these games that will soon be discussed, are learned. Lastly, when parents and children play everyone feels closer and more connected for it. So while at the end of the day, the last thing you might feel like doing is playing a game, Markham offers a variety of games that can be played in 10 minutes or less. Rather than feeling more exhausted by them, her experience has found more parents energized by them.
Dr. Markham has ideas for a variety of situations. For the child who is being very “in your face” with her parent or plain annoying, she states that the parents could grab her child and ask them if they are out of hugs and state they need to do something about it. Hug them and hug them more! Tell them you never want to let go and that you love hugging them. Tell them how much you needed that. Bring on the hug fest and the attention fest for this attention and affection craving child and see the annoying behavior disappear. She offers a suggestion for the parent who is experiencing a child who is excessively whining. While some experts state that parents should tell their child they do not hear her until she uses her proper voice, Markham states that this will just make the child feel more powerless.
She reminds parents that this is what whining is all about for the child. Instead, she has a game in which the parent and child look for the child’s strong voice throughout the house. With an engaged child, who by now should be talking in their normal, strong voice, compliment them on their strong voice as you look through the house. Say to them, I love your strong voice! Then ask them again what they initially wanted in the first place. Another great game idea she had was to encourage two squabbling siblings to come to the center of the stage. In your best announcer voice, ask them to fight in the ring. Give the play-by-play commentary about your prizefighters, hopefully illuminating the ridiculousness of the situation and providing levity. There are many other great ideas in the article that she has to address typical familial issues between parents and children. May I close with the quote she used at the top of this feature?
Play can be the long-sought bridge back to that deep emotional bond between parent and child. Play, with all its exuberance and delighted togetherness, can ease the stress of parenting. Playful Parenting is a way to enter a child’s world, on the child’s terms, in order to foster closeness, confidence, and connection.” — Lawrence Cohen, Playful Parenting*