Play is the powerhouse of child development. It is linked to language abilities, creativity and emotional intelligence.
Parents can feel so pressured by other demands on their own and their children’s time, though, that it’s easy to forget that play is one of the most important, enriching activities needed for children to flourish.
In fact, we are beginning to understand that play is important for adults too. Emphasising the importance of work, at the expense of play, undermines long-term achievement, health and happiness, so finding a balance is key.
Be the parent you want to be, even when you don’t feel like it
Every day, we each have to choose between taking the “easy” option – whatever makes us feel better in the moment – or investing time and energy in doing what really matters.
Psychologists describe this as living in accordance with our values. Although the easy option can bring immediate relief from feelings like sadness or anger – and, let’s face it, we all find ways to avoid negative emotions now and then – it can become a big problem when this way of dealing with challenges becomes a pattern.
Living out our values is not always easy. It can be tough, and making room for difficult emotions is part of moving towards living a meaningful life.
Emotions are opportunities for learning and connection
We can all forge deeper connections with others – including our children – through emotional exchange: by listening to their expressions of emotion, validating their emotions and gently exploring them. This process is called “emotion coaching” and has been linked to better emotional and social skills in children.
Natural and logical consequences
There’s a trap we will all fall into at some stage in our parenting careers: using a whole lot of talking to get through to our children, all the while protecting them from the consequences of their actions – and then becoming frustrated that they aren’t learning the “lesson”.