It's inevitable...our children are going to ask us to PLAY with them. For some big people (parents, grow-ups, caretakers, teachers) this is awesome and they are ready to jump right in! That's great! Woo hoo!
Then there are those of us who WANT to play but are flooded with a sea of emotions from excitement to guilt (because we have so much to do), to creative and openness to utter fear and incompetence (because we SUCK at "playing) all becasue of one little question:
Will you play with me?
Here are some nano steps to take yourself (and your child) through that still result in an authentic connection and build rather than deteriorate your relationship no matter what the answer is.
1) Notice how you feel in your body. Do you feel rushed, annoyed, excited, guilty, nervous, open, constricted?
2) Breathe into that emotion. Allow it to be what it is.
“I feel annoyed right now because I have 50 other things that need to get done. I accept that I feel annoyed.”
3) Look at your child and imagine what she or he is feeling. Excitement, hesitant, playful (duh!), sad, thrilled, proud?
4) Communicate aloud your child’s feelings and needs.
“You look so excited and I can tell you really want me to play with you and show you some attention right now.”
5) Decide if you desire to play with your child.
I say DECIDE because life is NEVER a “have to” or “obligation.” You don’t HAVE to do the dishes…you CHOOSE to do the dishes. You don’t HAVE to finish posting to Facebook, you CHOOSE to post to Facebook. You don’t HAVE to meet your deadline, you CHOOSE to meet your deadline!
You don’t HAVE to play with your child, you CHOOSE to play with your child. Take full responsibility for your choice!**
** If you choose not to play with your child make sure you let them know why (make sure YOU know why) and communicate it gently and set up a time to play after.
**If you choose to play but are stuck in “I don’t really know how to play, it’s pretty boring and I get frustrated when I try to engage and play with my child on their level,” please know you are NOT alone and many parents feel like that.
Here are three bonus steps for HOW to play.
1) Relax and consciously slow your body and breathing down.
2) If you forgot how to play (like I did), communicate this to your child and have them show you. “Louisa, I have to tell you something. I forgot how to play. Did you know that sometimes grown-ups forget how to play? Isn’t that silly? Will you teach me?”
3) Follow your child’s lead! Listen and say yes. They are the best teachers of play!