In The Power of Parent-Child Play, I focus on how barriers to play can be broken into four different categories: time and energy limits, uncertainty about behavior or activities, lack of motivation, and family stress.
As we start this discussion, consider time and energy barriers. Do any of the following get in your way at the present time? Which have presented real struggles for you in the past?
- Hectic work schedules and demands (working at home or outside employment)
- Caring for your home and your family’s basic needs
- High-need children (including colicky babies, or children with special needs)
- A new baby
- A busy toddler or preschooler
- Volunteer activities
- Illness or injury in extended family
- Child related activities
Many of these busy activities are good and/or necessary. But do any of them interfere in some way with parent-child play and the intimacy it can bring?
Some activities you may choose, such as keeping up with housework, pursuing a career, and volunteering for everything from PTA to Scouts to Sunday School, can crowd out parent-child play. Many of your chosen activities may be child oriented: driving to sports practices and games, or music rehearsals and concerts. You may also rack up mileage driving to and from school. Hey, you’re with your kid so much of the time, surely some of that must count as play. . . right? Or does it?
Other time and energy thieves may press in on you without permission: babies who steal sleep and require countless diaper changes; busy toddlers who need constant diversion from danger; extended family members who are aging, ill, or injured. We are showing necessary love and caring and certainly are bonding: but are we too exhausted to enjoy these relationships fully?
Hurried mothers and fathers sometimes feel guilty about missing out on play, but also feel unsure about how to change their situation. Other overly busy parents suspect that parenting should be more of a joyful experience, but they can’t quite see the connection between that feeling and parent-child play, nor how to fit that into their hectic schedules.
If you recognize any of the time and energy barriers listed above, you may feel overextended and stressed. You may already grieve having missed a particular stage in your child’s life. If so, by prioritizing play more now and finding ways to make your lifestyle less hurried, you can avoid missing seeing future milestones. I’ll describe some ways to do this in the next few posts, for instance on ways to fit quick 5-Minute-Fun games into your days, even when on the go.
No matter how busy you are, you can build a more intimate, fun relationship with your child. Even if your child is doing just fine, might you enjoy motherhood or fatherhood more–and build a better relationship between you two for the future– if you reevaluate your time and energy priorities? What activities in your life might be reasonable to drop, or to simply take a hiatus from for a few years, while your kids are small? I know this can involve tough decisions.
If you as a mom or dad HAVE cut back on activities to make time to enjoy your children more while they are small, what did you cut back on? How did it help you bond more with your kids? I’d love to hear your comments.
Excerpted from The Power of Parent-Child Play, Chapter2: What Gets in the Way? Solutions for time and energy barriers will be covered in future posts (excerpts from Chapter 5: Maybe Later, Dear).
Copyright 2003-2011 Laurie Winslow Sargent.