As a registered play therapist, it’s no surprise that I talk a lot about how important play is for children: it helps them explore their world, develop socially, and process their experiences. But the power of play is not something that benefits kids only; adults can also utilize play to better their own lives, specifically in how they connect with their children. Here are some ways that the power of play can help you improve your relationship with your kids:
Play Fosters Emotional Bonding
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that helps parents and kids feel close to one another. It’s released in the brain through affection (hugs and loving touches) and also through play! We can form strong attachments to our children when we participate in meaningful play with them, such as throwing a football in the yard, splashing around in the pool, or just being together in a stress-free setting.
Play Helps Us Understand Our Kids’ Experiences Better
Unfortunately, there can be such a disconnect between us and our kids. We have adult responsibilities, jobs, bills, laundry, etc, while for our children, the world is often still very new and unknown. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane, where for our kids, life it still very much about the pursuit of fun. Taking time to stop and play with them helps us see things better through their eyes.
Play Can Help Parents & Kids Communicate Better
Children do not yet have the language to articulate their feelings, and play (play therapy, in particular) is a way for them to process their experiences through metaphors. As a play therapist, my goal is not just to help a child heal from trauma or other types of emotional pain, but to also strengthen the parent-child relationship. Play therapy can help parents better understand and communicate with their kids, as they can learn to speak their language.
Play Helps Us Find Joy
All parents know that there is a lot that is stressful and difficult about raising children (especially today, as the onslaught of media reminds us of the worst in the world). I never intend to downplay the struggles that a family experiences, but I hope that we don’t forget to find joy with our little ones. Playing with our kids helps them build confidence to take risks and try new things, as well as to trust that you will help keep them safe.