Like many recovering women and moms, “fun” often falls to the bottom of the to do list for me (if it’s even on there). Who has time for fun? I’m WORKING! I’m working being a mom, I’m working being a Psychologist, I’m working running a household!
However, all work and no fun makes … NO FUN! And when there is no fun, this is a set up: for burn-out, depression, relapse, cross addiction, cynicism, unhappy marriages, cranky kids, and wistful fantasizing about times when play included things other than matchbox cars and dressing up like Elsa for the five hundredth time.
Here are some FUN ideas that have worked in our house:
- Get Creative in Your Child’s Play by Being Silly Yourself.
(And create a Halloween costume other than Elsa or Star Wars)
If your child likes to dress up like Elsa, and you feel like you are going to throw up if you have to be her sister, Anna, one more time, be something YOU want to be! Put on black clothes, cut out little green dots and be a Black-Eyed Pea! (That is a free Halloween costume idea. You’re welcome. You can now have fun being something-other-than- yet-another-Star-Wars-Princess-Zombie-Superhero walking down the block on October 31st). You can now dance around singing “I’ve Got a Feeling…”
If YOU are having fun, your child will, as well. If they are laughing, that is the goal. Little ones laughing are the equivalent of liquid gold. And who says Elsa can’t play with a singing, hipster vegetable?
2. Have Fun with Literal and Non Literal
My husband came up with this one when he couldn’t take another 2 hours of matchbox cars racing around:
It’s a Traffic Jam 🙂
Another thing my little one and I have done is put letters around the house on things that start with that letter. You can play with puns like the letter “T” on the Tea box, and the letter “P” on the potty where your little one goes “Pee.” This can be fun for a few minutes during the witching hours. Every little bit helps.
3. Create a Weekly Ritual
Our family has movie night every friday. I know some moms that have actually created theme-meals to go with the movie: “poison” (caramel) apples with Snow White or Pumpkin cake with Cinderella. Olaf eggs for Frozen. (More ideas. You’re welcome.)
I myself am too f-ing tired by friday to do this. We order out and have it delivered. Permission to do this. And if you are in recovery and not a Mom, if you have a fabulous (or good enough) babysitter, then by all means go OUT to a movie!
4. Find a Special Place to Visit Regularly.
It could be a redwood forest or a tree near your house. Whatever this place is, visit it regularly to connect with the-part-of-you-that-knows. This may not be fun in the traditional “Hey, let’s have some fun!” light-hearted kind of way. However, it is the ground from which all creative and fun energy arises. Your Soul/Wise-Mind/Intuition will appreciate having a regular place where you breathe, rest, and reflect. Find a Grandmother tree or create an altar in your home where you can be still. This is that quiet place that is under all the noise of Busy-ness. It is the ocean that all the waves crash back into. Let your mind rest there.
5. Connect with a Friend to Do the Fun Thing You Never Let Yourself Do
Take a moment to ask yourself what you really like doing, but never allow yourself to do. Now: create a date with a friend to do that. Whether it be collage-ing, making art, painting, dancing, yoga, or getting a pedicure, making a date with a friend will make you more likely to actually do it. This accountability can help give you both permission to take having fun more seriously 🙂 Do it before you reach this place, because when you reach this place, you are no fun:
Many Blessings and Have Fun!
It’s the start of the school year! End of summer vacations, unstructured time, sleeping in (if you’re lucky enough to be one of the few who has a child that does this)! Many parents breathe a sigh of relief (Hooray: No more trying to create a daily structure!) along with a feeling of dread (Oh Dear! Coordinating and calendaring school schedules for the next nine months!) Here are some thoughts about how to potentially ease the transition:
1. Set up and script the environment
Give yourself and your family transition time by starting the new school schedule a few days or a week ahead. For example, start bedtime earlier. (I know, most of us have missed the boat on this by this time. That’s ok don’t stop reading!) Talk about what will be coming up: “This is what we’ll be doing when you go to school: We’ll get dressed do you want to wear your red pants or your gray ones? Then we’ll have breakfast sooooo early! And then we’ll get in the car and drive to the building with red paint and a mural. Do you remember what is painted on the side of your school building?”
2. Make it fun
Take a fun trip to the store to get new pencils, markers, or a lunch box. Have them put their favorite stickers on their lunch box or back pack. Talk about the people and fun things your child may be doing at school. “You can play in the castle and the construction vehicles in the sand! They may have paint at the art table. Remember that swing that when you swing on it you almost touch the tree?”
3. Help facilitate bonding with the teacher.
Meet the teacher and introduce your child. Let the teacher know any unique aspects to your child that help them transition or make them feel safe: “He may need his lovey, He really likes construction vehicles, She likes to dress up like Elsa’s sister,” Or “If you ask him a question, it will often take 10 seconds for him to reply, but he will if you wait.” Put a picture of the teacher on your fridge and talk to him/her “Hi Miss Kathy. I know you are going to help Aiden learn and grow this year! I’m excited to get to see you soon.”
4. Provide a Transitional Object
At my child’s school, they invite the parents to make a photo book of all the people, places and things that their child likes. Then, if the child feels sad or lonely, they can look through the book with their teacher and tell them about how they like to dig in the sand with Papa, read this book with Nana, get pedicures with Mama, etc
5. Read stories and playact separating and re-connecting
Separation is one of if not THE most terrifying fears for children. When separating from your child, always focus on the re-connection. “When I come to get you, I get to hear about your day! And we can go to get ice-cream with your sister! I can’t wait to snuggle you tonight before bed!” Have you ever noticed how the central drama of almost every child movie is some kind of separation (or threat of) separation and then reconnection?
An awesome book for young children that gives story and image to transition objects, separating, and re-connecting is The Kissing Hand.* The Kissing Hand tells the story of Chester the raccoon who “doesn’t want to go to school.” His Mom helps him by providing a kissing hand that “whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think ‘Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you.'”
If your child is really struggling with separating, have a stuffed animal of theirs play feeling sad/mad/afraid and have the child play the Mom/Dad/Caregiver reassuring and returning. This helps them develop the inner resources and awareness of connection.
6. Allow all feelings and get support
Your child is likely to have feelings during this transition especially if it is their first time in preschool or starting kindergarten or new school/teacher. Give them special time. Special time is dedicated time each day when they get to choose what to play with you for 10-30 minutes and you stay completely present- no phones, no coffee, no multitasking. Expect more “broken cookies.” Broken cookies are when your child has a meltdown over what seems to be disproportionate to the situation because they are having big feelings that need release. You can tell it’s a broken cookie if no matter what you do (try to fix the cookie, offer another cookie, say they can have another cookie tomorrow) they still cry or escalate crying. Just let them get it out and be there for them. That will let them know they still have a safe harbor in you and the world will be ok even if big changes are difficult and feelings seem overwhelming.
7. And finally, last but not least: You!
The thing that no-one tells you as a parent, though, is that YOU might have big feelings about your little one’s transitions as well! You may experience “re-stimulation” around re-experiencing your childhood transitions. If you had a hard time with separation when you first went to school, took a long time to make a friend, were a biter or a hitter, or were bullied, all of these experiences come flooding back to you as an adult who now has a child because time does not exist in the emotional world. You may also feel sad, relieved, happy, mad around the way your child transitions. If they cling to you, you may feel anxious, angry, sad, or guilty. If they run off and don’t even say goodbye, you may feel sad. This is where “Listening partners” are so helpful. A listening partner is a friend, often a fellow parent, that can just listen to your experience as a parent. they don’t try to fix you or offer advice. They listen to your experience and travel with you along the path of parenthood.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrations by Ruth E Harper and Nancy M Leak, Terre Haute, IN: Tanglewood Publishing, 2006.
I am NOT Going to School Today by Robie H. Harris illustrated by Jan Ormerod, New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003.
All Kinds of Friends by Norma Simon illustrated by CherieZamazing, Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013.
Hand in Hand Parenting (handinhandparenting.org)
Special time, stay listening, and listening partners are all tools from hand in hand parenting. Hand in hand parenting is an organization of resources to support parents and provide them with the insights and skills they need to listen to and connect with their children in a way that allows each child to thrive. They work with parents and primary caregivers whose children are ages one month to six years, and their approach falls within the authoritative or democratic parenting category. They advocate for a combination of responsiveness and nurturing combined with high expectations for behavior, to form strong parent-child connections that last a lifetime.
Dr Laura Markham
Dr Laura is a Psychologist that has written several blogs and books on parenting with pragmatic tips on how to connect with your child and make the parenting journey more easeful and successful. Here is one helpful related blog: “Preparing your Child for the New School Year” http://www.ahaparenting.com