Play Activities Contribute to Bonding & Regulation
- Coach, clinician, and parents choose an activity the parent believes will be most successful.
That is, the parent believes they have the ability, skills and presence to initiate the activity, invite and prepare the child and family for positive interaction, and equally include each family member. The parenting coach and parent join in accessing and reinforcing abilities. For instance: Help the parent gauge stress levels and practice self-calming breathing before the activity.
Parent and Coach Role Play Words
- Gathering the family, (“As soon as you complete your homework and Dad walks the dog, we will begin game night! You can make the popcorn!”)
- Eliciting the child’s cooperation, (“Where do you want to sit so you will feel safe and comfortable? Do you want to sit near Mommy?”)
- Words or phrases that convey inclusion, affection, or safety. (“We are glad you can join with us and play rather than stay alone in your room.”)
The parent must also be able to arrange the environment to facilitate their child’s success according to their child’s particular needs.
For instance: Perhaps cell phones need to be turned off so as not to draw any family member away from the play activity. Kindles, tablets, gaming systems or other technology need to be put away to limit distraction.
Positive ground rules or guidelines are established prior to beginning. This is what you, as a coach, will discuss with the parents before they introduce new activities to the family. You might ask them; “Looking ahead - What can you do to orchestrate success and help prevent a catastrophe?”
- Can the parent pull from their resources and strategies to adjust the environment to help insure greater success?
- What can the parent do to create safety?
- Can the coach and parent pace an enjoyable game and then escalate the skills for a child over activities?
For example, if the parent knows their child has difficulty with close physical proximity to other family members, or, that their anxiety levels rise with increased expectations (even when they are positive in nature) resulting in undesirable behavior.
Attend to the Environment
- Do lights need lowering?
- Will soft music or deep breathing help with the regulation of excitement the child feels?
- Does the child need to participate while sitting on a balance ball, or handling a fidget toy?
- Does the child or family need a slower paced activity to begin, or one that will appropriately help release the child’s pent up energy?
- Encourage parents to think like a kid!
- Ask whether the parent is able to share a game or activity they remember loving when they were their child’s age. Again, this will be a challenge for some parents.
- The coach encourages a parent to examine the roadblocks they experience preventing them from moving into a playful relationship with their child, rather than a blaming, grudging, and resentful relationship.
I mentioned earlier that some parent’s just don’t feel like participating. Fun! Bah, humbug! Consider this a normal reaction. It is the culmination of so much internal pain, hurt feelings and disappointment. It is part and parcel of the confusion and rejection the parent feels from the child, and perhaps, disappointment in themselves.
- What is holding you back?
- Where do your fears linger?
- What could be the result when you decide to do this?
- What will happen if you don’t do anything?
Regulate the parent first. Coaches help parents apply and practice self-calming, stress management and grounding or centering strategies by asking: What can you do right now, to organize and regulate your inner body and mind so you can make a clear decision you feel good about, and help your family to enjoy this time together?