As parents and adults we eagerly desire to connect with our children, but we often are not sure how, or are unable, to step out of the adult world to meet them in their kid world. We want to empathize with their daily struggles, laugh with them over funny things that happened at school, and just plain know what is going on in that cute little head of theirs. Connecting with your kids is not like coffee with your girlfriend. We have all experienced the infamous answer to the question, “how was school today?”…”Good…” Which inevitably leaves the adult mind wanting. But could it be that we are left wanting because our approach to connection is based on false pretenses? Perhaps our problem stems not from our children’s lack of interest, but in our approach to connect with them as if they are an adult.
We all intuitively know that children experience the world differently than adults—our children don’t come home from school and explain their day as Andrew did. But in what ways do they experience the world differently and how does that affect our connection with them? Modern psychology tells us that children experience & understand the world through their bodies, and not through the vocabulary-dependent mental constructs as adults operate (it's not in their cute little head, its in their body!). Kids understand and communicate through sensation, gesture, and symbolism.
So how do I as a parent, “meet them on their level,” so to speak? The answer is a lot simpler and more fun than you might imagine—play!
The importance & value of Play:
Bridges the gap between mind driven adults & body driven children
Creates a shared experience promoting empathy & connection
Play is the most natural method for children to communicate
Play done mindfully is about relationship, and not instruction or direction to a child
Play is a powerful relational arena. Play is a space children can become very vulnerable, and often have a hard time not revealing themself. For this reason alone, I can not stress enough the importance of learning how to nurture & honor the relationship inside of play.
Take 30 minutes a week to play with your child in such a way where you are listening and connecting, and not instructing or directing. There are 10,050 minutes in the rest of the week to teach your children how to spell, add, and act! This 30 minutes is about relationship!
If you practice & hone these play skills, you will “hear” so much from your child, you will start doing more than 30 minutes a week!
5 ideas for how you might use play to connect with your kids:
1) Invite your child to teach you... (a dance, handshake, game, etc.)
2) Invite your child to pretend to be your jungle guide through your back yard.
3) Invite your child to host a tea party, concert, or event.
4) Invite your child to hang out together on the floor.
5) Invite your child to take turns giving pretend news reports