I wanted to share a story with you this evening. I think it’s a perfect example how play can help our kids to process their feelings and how it doesn’t have to complicated.
Kids intuitively know what they need to process their emotions and will often bring it up through play.
So if your child has had any fears, anxiety or stressful events come up recently this will be really helpful for you…
A couple of nights ago Louie had some apprehension coming up. It was the night before going to a friend’s pool/ waterslide birthday party. During dinner he announced in grumpy voice that he wasn’t going to go, he wanted to sit in the car and wait.
My older son and I were a bit confused about where this had come from and started trying to reassure him that all would be ok. L has been a bit worried about swimming lately and seems to have developed a bit of a story/ belief around ‘I can’t swim’ (funnily, although he keeps saying this, he actually can swim!). The more we tried to reassure him, the grumpier and angrier he became.
After dinner, he asked me to come to bed with him but when we got there he kept wanting to push me away.
He was restless and agitated – which are signs of having bottled up emotions.
I ended up laying on the floor with my feet up on the bed (where he was lying). Soon he peeped down and started sliding on my legs down towards the floor. I took this opportunity to ‘play’ with the pool and waterslide fears/ worries.
In a playful voice I said, “here he comes down the waterslide!”At first L pretended that there was a hole in the slide and he got stuck. But soon, he allowed himself to be rescued and pulled to safety. And then he went down the ‘slide’ over and over. He pretended to rub soap on his tummy so he could be very slippery and slide fast! One of his teddies was a bit scared to have a turn so Louie made him a little slide to try. Another teddy had a turn too. Then Louie wanted to reverse the roles. He became the waterslide and the teddies slid down his legs.
The game probably only lasted 15-20 minutes or so but there was lots of connection and laughter which helped L to release any tension and apprehension he was holding onto in his body which was making it hard for him to be able to relax and fall asleep.
(This is why you might find your kids trying to play active games while you’re trying to wind things down – they still have energy sitting in the body that they need to release in order to feel relaxed).
After awhile L was showing signs of tiredness, yawning, rubbing his eyes and snuggling in to me. He was happy to hop into bed and have a cuddle and fell asleep so quickly. The point is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Our kids instinctively KNOW what they need to do so that they can feel relaxed. It’s us adults who need to practise letting them get on with it rather than distracting them and learn to be more present, more playful and follow their lead!
Of course, this won’t always happen. There’ll be times when you’re too tired, don’t have time or don’t feel resourced enough. But even when this happens, the magic thing is that another opportunity will always come up.
Your child’s body will keep looking for outlets for this emotional energy until it finds one.
So, you never have to worry that you’ve missed your chance. However, in saying that, it is always easier to work through these issues as soon as we can, before they grow into bigger issues if we can. If I had’ve chosen not to engage in the ‘waterslide’ play, Louie would have taken a much longer time to fall asleep because he would still have all the bottled up emotions, tension/ agitation sitting in his body making it difficult to relax.
(Just think how hard it is to fall asleep when you are worried or angry about something)
AND more than likely he would still be grumpy and looking for an outlet in the morning which would have offered another opportunity for play.
If you’d like my support with something like this we can create a personalised action plan for you including how can guide behaviour, how you can use play in your situation, how to hold space for big feelings and more.
Most mothers spend far too much time in ‘damage control’: dealing with tantrums, arguments, uncooperation or defiance. Because they don’t have the foundations right.
When you work with your kids emotions rather than against them, you’ll see a natural reduction in those challenging behaviours, making parenting a whole lot easier and more enjoyable
And by the way, Louie had so much fun going down the waterslide at the birthday party with his friends! Pic of him and I on the poolside
Do you have questions or would like to know more about this – I’d love to hear from you! And if you’d like my support in creating your own personalised plan of action for more balance, ease and flow at home with your children, you can book here or get in touch through my Facebook page and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible xo
PS Much gratitude to Marion Rose (PsychoSpiritual Parenting) and Aletha Solter (Aware Parenting) for teaching me so much about how play can help our children to heal from stressful events and prepare for new events, I’ve found myself using these tools daily with my children, my daycare/kindergarten children and my clients’ children for many years now. Learning to use play in this way the FIRST tool I recommend for increased connection, calm and cooperation.