As children go back to school and homework agendas take the place of the carefree, less structured weeks of summer. I ask if we shouldn’t be allowing more time in our family lives to play.
Play is often ignored by adults, who may see it as pointless. Yet play is satisfying, pleasurable, fun. It is an intrinsic part of childhood and a child's natural medium of self expression. Play is often how children make friends, forming relationships that often span years.
Through play, children learn to be themselves. They explore aspects of their personality, they develop skills which make them feel good about themselves. What we know is that when engaged in play the child often becomes so engrossed as to lose awareness of his/her time and surroundings becoming immersed in an imaginary or symbolic world.
Play starts with a relationship. Between mother and infant, mirroring smiles and gurgles lend movement and sound to a time-honored dance. In this early play, children learn that they are lovable and special, that others are loving, caring and trustworthy, that the world is an exciting place to explore. As children develop, games become more elaborate including face making, role playing and physical games.
It is a safety mechanism to let off steam. Through play a child can express his anger whilst feeling safe from retaliation.
For many families, play introduces humor at times of severe stress. It helps them cope with irritability, sadness and even fear. It has the potential for parents and children to build deeper connections with each other through laughter, imagination, and creativity.
"Play stirs things up, [states professor and psychotherapist Catherine Ford Sori] gets families …trapped in their left brains to use the creative spontaneous and playful aspects of their right brains". Play allows family members to see things from different angles, to explore new roles for themselves, to approach family problems with greater flexibility and maturity.
I don’t know when we lose our ability to play but maybe our children have something to teach us after all.
Sori, C.F. (2006) "Engaging Children in Family Therapy" Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group
This blog is for anyone who is interested in psychology and well being. It will tackle questions about how therapy works and what are the differences between various approaches to therapy. I will be looking at key factors that help families and couples stay happy and connected with each other and will also look at some of the major stresses of life, offering thoughts on the pitfalls to be avoided.