I can’t remember how old my son was when he stopped playing. One day he was spending hours creating worlds with his little PVC Pokemon figurines and then the next day he wasn’t but I can’t really remember when that was. But I remember that he was sad about it, when his play stopped working, and it made me think about when my big sister came home (at around 11 or 12) from her first babysitting job. She trudged into my room, watched me setting up my kitchen set to make dinner for my doll and then said, “You know, playing baby dolls isn’t as much fun once you’ve played with a real baby.”
It’s hard to grow up and it’s hard to lose the opportunity for play.
Fortunately when kids (and grownups) read — particularly fiction or non-fiction with the same kind of imaginative scope, the kind that sets you to wondering — works our brains the same way that play does. Unlike television, which is fun and can be playful, books ask us to supply the sights and sounds and to imagine the people who are speaking. It’s a form of pretending, which is one reason that it’s so important that kids (and grown ups) get time to read for pleasure.
Graphic novels count, so do books below grade level. Lots of kids like to revisit their favorite childhood books particularly during times of big growing because it’s comforting to spend time with the familiar when there are a lot of new challenges happening so don’t fret if your 10-year old comes back from the library with a pile of Henry & Mudge books instead of Harry Potter.
Finally audio books are a great way to “read” for the child who is a kinesthetic (i.e., physical) learner. If she can’t sit still long enough to read to herself, let her listen to books on CD while she colors, moves around or jumps on the trampoline. She’ll get many of the same benefits — training a longer attention span, building her vocabulary and that all important imaginative “play” time — without being frustrated.
I hear sometimes about parents who use books as punishment or consequences or bribes, for example, read for one hour tonight to earn an hour of computer time. That doesn’t build literacy; it builds kids who dread books. If you’ve got a book-friendly household (access to books either on your shelves of via regular trips to the library; adults who love to read; acceptance of everyone’s favorite genre regardless of it’s respectability or educational value) then you’ll have children who understand the value of reading whether or not they become bookworms.
Back in the old days we used to make mix tapes. Then we made mix CDs. Now we make virtual playlists. It’s Monday! Must be time for music!
My husband is participating this time, which is a first. He’s never done that before because the time wasn’t convenient but he was helping me set up and tear down and decided it’d be easier just to stick around and take the class. The class is male-heavy this time around, which is unusual* but great. There’s been a lot of engagement and it’s fun to see what people find new and exciting. Different people find different things illuminating and I always learn something by witnessing people tune in to a new idea.
I really really really love to teach this class!!
I’ve had some calls from people hoping to come to the second session of Parenting for Attunement but there is so much that happens in the first class that I think people will lose too much if they only get half. If you are interested in learning when I’ll be offering it again — either September or October depending on some other things going on — please sign up for the email list by filling the form there to the side or by commenting below and checking the box that says “Click here to get the monthly Building Family Counseling Newsletter.” I think I’m going to stick with the four hour class in two weeks for now. I know it’s hard to get a babysitter for that long but it’s also hard to get a babysitter for six weeks. I’m also going to start working on launching an online version hopefully in the fall although, given how busy I am, maybe I ought to say in 2015 but I’m really rooting for fall.
Oh my gosh, I’m really not ready to think that 2015 is close enough to start planning but there you go; it is.
* I’ve only ever taught one other class that had more men and that was one mandated for abusive husbands who had to take a class in order to get unsupervised visitation with their children. I was nearly eight months pregnant and already tired of traveling all the way across town at night during the winter to teach it (we lived in Portland then and I went by bus) and these guys were so hostile. It’s the only time the class hasn’t gone well.
I’ve been working on revamping my hand-outs and adding a Powerpoint (well, Keynote — same diff as we used to say in the 80s!) for the visual learners. I keep getting asked about offering the class online but haven’t really figured out how to do this. I’m asking some of my colleagues who do webinars about the tech part but I’d also need to figure out how to turn a fairly long class (it’s usually 2-hours across 6 weeks but this time I’m trying 4 hours on 2 days) into something palatable online. Maybe stick with the six week format and hope people are willing to come to their computers that many times? Me, I’m not crazy about webinars so it’s hard for me to figure what others might like. If you have some thoughts, let me know.
Meanwhile if you’re in Central Ohio, come on by this Saturday or sign up for the newsletter (there in the sidebar) and get alerted when I teach the class in the fall (probably in October).
I found this write-up of a study that looked at the impact parenting can have on helping kids cope with depression and anxiety. The study’s authors found that children who were able to regulate their own emotions did better when their parents supported them and gave them room for greater autonomy in managing their emotions. Children who were less able to regulate did better with more support and structuring.
In other words, some kids need more parental guidance and some kids need less.
It’s yet another reason why one-size-fits-all parenting advice doesn’t work.
Parenting for Attunement happens this Saturday and I reserved a big old space so registration will remain open all the way up until we start the class (so you can walk on in if you don’t register beforehand — I’ll bring extra hand-outs). Our focus that very first day will be on learning more about your child’s temperament and how that can impact their development so that you can choose your own this-size-fits-mine parenting plan.
I hope to see you there.