You know that feeling when your alarm feels hours too early and the pitch is more like a dog whistle than the calm, soothing voice of Morgan Freeman? These mornings are when it seems hot coffee and prolonged silence are beyond the realm of possibility.
Once reality sets in, you realize that it’s a Monday morning and you forgot to wash your youngest’s favorite dress, there is a strange smell lurking in the corner of the living room, and a shoe is missing. (Of course. Why wouldn’t said shoe be missing.)
No worries, you’ve got this. You read a few comical parenting memes in your mom friends’ group chat over the weekend, and everything you read on the internet is true, right? Ok, definitely not, but there’s nothing a good self-pep-talk cannot fix!
Playful Parenting Perspective
Where’s the good news, you ask? A week that starts off chaotic can shift! Focusing on implementing simple rhythms of play can decrease feelings of overwhelm and increase positive connections between you and your children.
Implementing simple rhythms of play can decrease feelings of overwhelm and increase positive connections between you and your children.
Cultivating space for positive connections with our children not only decreases feelings of chaos and overwhelm, it also helps internalize the message of we are in this together/we’ll get through this together. Bonus growth opportunities: the parent-child relationship and increasing your overall distress tolerance for the next time you feel overwhelmed.
Simplify Your Efforts to Connect
Connecting with your child, tween, or teen does not require exquisite planning or grandiose gestures. Your tweens and teens may love a grand gesture, but, more importantly, they crave acceptance and belonging.
Instead of inviting overwhelm to the party, consider making the most of the in-between moments throughout your day when you can cultivate connection with intentionality and through simple rhythms of play.
Your tweens and teens may love a grand gesture, but, more importantly, they crave acceptance and belonging.
What would family breakfast look like if everyone joined in a game of Pictionary or Candy Land? As an adult, you get to make the rules! It can be liberating to find areas of your routine (or family rules) that are the way they are simply because that’s how it was when you or your partner were growing up.
Change can be intimidating, but it can also be tons of fun! Let’s consider a few options that encourage a shift towards fostering family fun and positive connections:
Fun Ideas for Connecting Through Play
- Create a soothing and upbeat playlist for mornings. Kids will love getting to join in on this one!
- Play a board game at breakfast.
- Take turns having your children select items to place on the family menu.
- Put away all technology in the car on the way to soccer practice and play I Spy.
- Have a take-out dinner picnic in the living room and watch cartoons or a movie.
- Having a 5–10 minute dance party before bedtime routines.
- Roll out a paper tablecloth or place mats and create a family story. Take turns adding to the illustrated story without talking.
- Knock-knock joke marathon during meals. Extra bonus points for laughter and cultivating your child’s sense of humor which helps build up social competence!
- Create space for quiet time with your young child before bed. Read books, color together, listen to a sleep story, lay down together, and share silly stories.
- Create space for quiet time with your tween or teen before bed. Hang out on the couch and text each other memes; go on a neighborhood walk; listen to an audio book, podcast, or meditation together.
The message I heard was this: You are loved just as you are!
What were the best parts of connecting with the people you loved as a child? My mom always had a cassette tape playing while we baked. We would dance about, and she always let us lick the brownie batter spoon. She could have hurried us along so she could clean up the kitchen and move on to her never-ending to-do list, but she chose to be with us.
Do you remember that cozy feeling when you were noticed? My sweet grandmother would save her expired spices for me so I could add them to my next series of mud pies. She even purchased grown-up silverware from garage sales for me to dig in the dirt. They were not super fancy, and some of the spoons were a bit bent, but the message I heard was this: You are loved just as you are!
Reflection Prompts to Try
These reflection prompts listed below are to help identify where simple play routines can foster positive connection with your children of all ages. After working through the prompts yourself, you can use these as conversation starters to explore with your tweens and teens.
- What were the best parts of connecting with those you loved as a child?
- What were the most special ways your parent(s) connected with you?
- Where did you feel most comfortable and most safe growing up?
- Can you recall a time when you felt accepted just as you were?