Playfulness in Parent-Child Relationships

Often I ask parents what they do for fun with their children. If playful activities are engaged in the most common response is board games. Other frequent answers include going to a child’s activities; sports, musical concerts, recitals, and plays. As children enter early adolescence and high school, even games are dropped from family experiences and many early activities cease because the child dropped out of participation at some point.

Over the last ten years or so, it has become quite apparent that dramatic changes are taking place in family relationships. Interactive activities that took literally hundreds of years to develop have disappeared from the family landscape. Storytelling, learning nonsense poems, useless hand tricks like thumb wrestling, coin snatch off the elbow, telling corny jokes, one-on-one parent-child special outings, camping, playful wrestling or tumbling, races, working a family puzzle, bubble gum blowing contests, and time for mom and daughter to polish each others nails, have all but disappeared from experiences. Beyond the silliness and laughter these activities allowed parents and children to talk in the midst of other activities. These exchanges offered a sense of camaraderie and connection that comes from sharing the experience together. When the fun we have is on a computer, watching a video, or playing video games, often the cooperative aspects of play are lost. Actual competitions, sports and other events reflect challenging competitive drive and perhaps meet a need for selected children. Families, while needing to challenge children at times, need lots of playful cooperative experiences to feel significant and connected to parents. Technology is wonderful -- relationships are even better. Even with a competitive activity where there is a winner and loser, each family member should be celebrated for their participation. Family times presented to children in these ways create connection, communication and a desire to please parents they are connected to. Pursue fun and laughter will follow. Create an interesting relationship that your child desires and celebrate them as they participate well. Laughter is the oil that reduces the friction of parent expectations. Laughter and personal relating help families create memories that help us know who we are whether together or apart.

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