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When Playtime Sounds like Punishment

For many parents, after a long day of work, the idea of sitting with your kids and playing Barbies almost sounds like a form of Medieval torture. "What's wrong with me?" you might lament. "Why is this so hard?" Well, there are actually many valid reasons why sitting with your kids and playing might be difficult for you.

#1 You were parentified at a young age.

If by any chance you were made to "grow up quick" and take on adult responsibilities as a child, playing might feel extremely uncomfortable. The idea of relaxing itself might be uneasy. This is especially true if you continue to equate your self-worth with your level of productivity. Let me say that again. If you think your worth is rooted in your ability to perform, your desire to play (and essentially be unproductive) is going to feel like a threat to your very survival. I know, it's a lot to process. Not to mention that we live in a society that actively rewards and praises people who never slow down and play starts to sound like a punishment, instead of what it is. A deeply meaningful time to connect with your child.

#2 You haven't invested enough time in yourself lately.

The idea of giving precious unstructured time to your child is going to feel painful if you feel completely deprived on a regular basis. When you feel resentful doing something that is supposed to be fun, it's a good sign that you are not giving yourself the time and care you need to thrive on a regular basis. Dear parent, you are worth investing time in. Playtime should not feel like you are competing against your child for precious resources. You should not feel like a martyr playing trucks or Monopoly. If this is the case, take it as a sign from above to gracefully excuse yourself and schedule a time on your calendar to do something YOU enjoy. Trust me, you will return to your child refreshed and able to more fully engage.

#3 You aren't getting the type of play you need.

If you spend a lot of time sitting down or indoors, you might need a different type of play to feel regulated. Our bodies need certain amounts of big movement and sunshine to operate optimally. You may benefit more from running, skipping rope, or playing a hand clapping game with your child. I know, the last thing you might want at the end of a long day is more exertion, but rhythmic bilateral movement is known to help our bodies calm down. So if you feel antsy, jittery, or "trapped" playing tea party, it might be time to switch up the type of play you engage in! When we give our bodies what they need we often discover that we are not the monsters we made ourselves out to be.

You do not have to spend the rest of your life being the "boring" parent. As we grow in recognition of our own needs we can more fully meet our children where they are. When we allow ourselves to rest, to play, and to move joyfully, we may find that we do have a zest for play. Try it out this week and let me know what you discover.

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