Originally published on The Consciously Parenting Blog November 30, 2012
Excerpt from Nurturing Connection, Rebecca’s 3rd book in the Consciously Parenting series
What do our children really need to be emotionally healthy and to feel nurtured in our relationship with them? Playing is one of six things discussed in Rebecca’s upcoming book that we can do to nurture connection with our children (and our friends and partner, too).
We take parenting really seriously. Sometimes, we take it way too seriously. We’ve joined the adult world, with all of its adult responsibilities, and taken on the duties of running a household with children. Someone needs to take out the trash and remember to buy the trash bags. We have to be somewhere at a certain time of the day, so we need to get everyone ready to go and out the door so we’ll be on time. Life gets reduced to schedules, commitments, and things we need to do.
Life becomes only about survival.
But survival isn’t nurturing. While our basic survival needs must be met for us to be able to access our ability to play, survival alone isn’t enough to create a healthy family. In other words, if we’re struggling because we don’t have enough to eat, or we aren’t physically or emotionally safe, we can’t move into a place of play. But when we’re safe, when our basic needs are met, we can play. And when we realize that, in terms of having a thriving family, getting to play is just as important as getting a good meal and enough sleep, we can make a conscious effort to add more play into our lives.
As I wrote about in my first book, Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, there were several years after the death of my newborn when everyone in our family was overwhelmed and in survival mode. One of the best signs that my family was coming out of survival mode was when my eight-year-old son laughed. I hadn’t realized that he hadn’t laughed in a long time until his giggles reverberated across the room and caught my attention. Indeed, nothing had been funny for a long time.
Take a play inventory.
What does play look like for your children? Are they active or passive when they play? What activities are they drawn to? Do they like a good word puzzle or a game of tag? Do they have time for independent play, as well as time to play with you or play with friends?
And what’s the last playful thing you did with your child?
When I think about the last few days with my kids, I can list the birthday parties we attended and all the fun they had, but I have to think a little harder about when we actually played together and what that playtime looked like for us.
When our children are very young, we often spend time playing with them, either for fun or to help them engage and learn from the world around them. As our children grow older, they become more distracted by outside influences and activities, but it is still important for us to create time to play with our children.
Tell me about play in your family!
Is it something that comes easily for you? Something that you struggle with? What do you do to play with your kids and what are their ages? Please comment below and share your experiences!