You Don’t Have to Play With Your Child
Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a number of moms share with me that they feel terribly guilty because they aren’t any “good” at playing with their kids. Sometimes they don’t like it, sometimes they feel intimidated by it, sometimes they get bored by it, sometimes they feel there is some sort of skill involved that they just don’t have.
I have a couple of things to say about this. First, it’s important for people, not just children, to “play”. We all need time to just explore, try new things, do whatever we feel, say whatever we feel, be silly, knit or build or bake stuff, in an open-ended situation that doesn’t need to produce a specific result.
It’s possible that you don’t do much playing at all, in any area of your life. If that’s the case, I encourage you to tap into your own intuition, to get back in touch with those urges to do something silly, doodle, crack the ice on the top of the puddle, make a collage, or invent a new recipe. You may need to schedule yourself some time to do “nothing” and see what you feel like doing after you’ve let go of the need to do all the things on your list. Even if you start with one minute of unscheduled time that you intend to allow for potential play-like thoughts, you might be surprised at what happens.
If you do play already in your life, it’s very possible that how you play may not be anything like how your child plays, so you may find it tricky to play the way your child does.
And, yes, your child does need to play. But, here it is: your job is to make sure that your child’s environment provides him or her with all he or she needs to thrive.
You do not need to, and cannot, be, the one who fulfills every one of your child’s needs.
Here’s the thing – your child will benefit most from seeing you enthusiastic, engaged, and excited about life. You may be fascinated by architecture, knitting, math, baking, building, or history. Every person is different, and it doesn’t take a baby very long to figure that out. Babies will notice that THIS person cuddles, THIS person plays, THIS person sings, etc.
So, if you don’t love to play, DON’T PLAY with your child. Instead, share something with your child that you both love doing, and share your own enthusiasm with your child. Chances are, you will find yourself playing along the way, just not with toys, and maybe not in the way you are used to thinking about play.
So, let go of the guilt, and let go of the expectation on yourself. Instead, do what you love, and let the joy follow.
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