Setting an Intention to Connect with Your Child
Make 2017 the year that you bring playfulness back to parenting and reconnect with your child.
Parenting is stressful and full of ups and downs. It’s easy to get caught up in expectations- for your child and for yourself as a parent and the role you wish to play in your child’s development. Sometimes these expectations, obligations, and pressures of parenting get in the way of simply being with your child.
Being with your child and sharing your child’s experience for the sole purpose of attunement and connection is one of the most valuable and positive things you can do as a parent. Taking the time to delight in your child’s presence without expectations for his behavior communicate to your child that he is worthy of your love and attention just as he is.
Playfulness is a skill that can be incorporated to help you enjoy being in your child’s company and allow you to get on your child’s level. Playing with your child is a developmentally appropriate way of connecting with them, as we now know that play is the primary means through which children learn and explore their world. Parents that are able to be playful with their children are connecting with their child in a way that the child’s brain can process and understand.
Playfulness in parenting can look very different from parent to parent and from child to child. Some children prefer peaceful, quiet harmony and benefit from a parent that is playful with them by getting on the floor with them, giving comforting touch, and smiling and laughing quietly with their child. Other children may prefer loud and exciting interactions with parents, and playful rough housing, singing songs together, or engaging in an activity or dance together may be what this child is needing. As a parent, you must be flexible to each child’s individual needs and find a playful way of interacting and connecting with each particular child in a way that they are needing it.
Playfulness can be incorporated into difficult times as well when your child is engaging in behaviors that are undesired. Children that have difficulty staying in bed due to fear of bugs can sometimes benefit from a playful parent swatting away and squishing the imaginary bugs. Other times playfulness can be incorporated when trying to get a child to follow limits or directions, by role playing as superheroes or other imaginary characters.
Using playfulness in parenting communicates to the child that you enjoy their presence and they are a source of your joy. Playfulness encourages your child to connect with you more readily, but also encourages their internal development of self-worth. When children experience delight in connecting with you, they are more likely to engage in playful behaviors to encourage the connection even more.
Instead of focusing on getting your child to behave, try focusing on connecting with them in a playful manner. You may be surprised as how quickly your child is able to adjust their behaviors to get what they are truly needing to be regulated- more positive and playful connections with you.
Laura McLaughlin is the Founder and Therapist at HeadFirst Counseling in Dallas, TX. Laura works with children, teens, and parents to foster secure attachments and create an environment for families to thrive. Read more about Laura and HeadFirst Counseling at www.headfirstdallas.com
Laura can be reached by contacting the HeadFirst Office at (469) 665-9416 or firstname.lastname@example.org