Play For Connection
by Jemma Munford
In our recent blog, we explored how to hold boundaries with our children, and how to get them to cooperate without threats or bribes, and recognised that many behaviour challenges can be anticipated and resolved through connection.
What’s the easiest way to connect with your child?
Play holds a powerful role in emotional intelligence and mental health and can set how intensely your child is able to feel joy in later life. If you play with your child, you are activating the brain and body arousal system, the more you do it, the more they are able to bear intense states of joy and excitement into adulthood.
This system is only activated with play that’s directly with people, not through play just with toys, specifically physical body play, sometimes known as roughhousing.
Adrenaline flows, you’re laughing together, your heart rate increases and we breathe faster, this is the true experience of joy. Through joy, the brain produces dopamine and opioids which, in repeated activations, support resilience to stress; supporting our child to cope better with challenges, and have a sense of hope and a feeling of ‘I can do this!’
Amazing for just a bit of play, hey?!
What if you don't have time to play (or you're a parent who just doesn't enjoy it?)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of never making time to play with your child, life is busy, right? There are always a million jobs to do around the house, and sometimes we simply don’t have the headspace because we’re so overwhelmed.
That’s OK, it doesn’t have to feel like such a task, here are 4 tips to making playtime an enjoyable part of your day.
1) Make time to be fully present
Ditch the phone, turn off the TV and step away from the jobs for the time you’re committing to play. It doesn’t need to be for hours on end, 20 mins can be enough to begin with. Being present in the moment with them will help you delight and enjoy your child, making play more fun for you.
2) Follow their lead
Child-led play helps children with idea development, exploration, and feeling a sense of control and authority with their ideas and suggestions feeling valued and heard; perfect for connection!
With child-led play it’s great as you don’t even need to think of any games, no imagination needed!
3) Set a timer
If you’re short on time and worrying about all the jobs that need to be done, set a timer. This can help with the negotiations of ‘one more game’!
Proactively go to your child “OK sweetheart, I have 15 minutes and I want to play with you, what shall we do?”
Support the feelings of sadness when it’s over. “I know, I wish we could play more too”
4) Give it time to relax
When you’re already overwhelmed, it can feel hard to relax into playtime.
The more you practice, the easier it will become.
The more you play with your child, the more connected you will feel, and that overwhelm may just start to subside.