29 Apr Becoming a better parent: Connecting through play
Our Westview team member, Terry Owens, continues our series, Becoming a Better Parent. In this article, Terry shares important ideas about “Connecting through play.”
Six weeks ago, our ways of interacting and doing business changed. Schools closed. Many of us are working from home so we can distance ourselves from others to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Now we are parent, teacher, and employee—all in one place, all at one time. This reality can be challenging and stressful for parents, but it may be even more so for our children. They may or may not understand why school buildings are closed and why they must do their classwork online. They may be confused about why they can’t go play with their friends. Why can’t their parents go to work? Why can’t the family travel or go visit grandparents? This is a challenging time for us all.
In the midst of these challenges, parents may be able to find a silver lining. This could be an opportunity to develop stronger connections with your children, especially through play. When a child invites a parent to play, they are asking for more than a way out of boredom; they are seeking connection and time to talk with someone they love and respect.
Sometimes parents can overlock the potential of playtime with their children. Instead, set your to-do list aside for a few moments and play with your children. Find a timer and set it for fifteen minutes (at least) of child-directed play. This time will build your connection and attachment with your children.
Child-directed play is one-on-one playful interaction between parent and child, led by the child. Here are some examples: In follow the leader, let your child lead and do you whatever your child does. Or, imitate your child, if your child is playing with blocks or Legos, copy what they are building. Parents can find a deeper connection through video games as well; pick up the controller and do your best. See the joy in your child’s eyes as you play. Support your child by encouraging them; refrain from being critical. The parent should only interfere with the child’s leadership if their choices unintentionally become potentially harmful or dangerous.
“Play disarms fear, builds connectedness, teaches social skills, and social competencies for life,” as Dr. Karyn Purvis has reminded us. This may be a fearful time for us, but it may be especially trying for our children. When we take time to play with our children, it helps to diminish their fears while doing a world of good for our weary souls.
Westview understands these stresses and has worked to provide resources for families during these troubling times. Josh Birney (our Social Services Manager) has been recording a series of brief videos, “Five Family Favorites,” that you can find on our website at:
We remain committed to helping families and providing proven resources to help parents to build a strong connection and attachments with their children. If we can be of any assistance to you, please reach out to us; we are here to help.