Episode summary:

In this episode, Susan shares a clip from a Playful Parenting Master Class with Dr. Lawrence Cohen. You’ll hear a discussion on how to talk with kids about Covid-19 and how to bring connection into interactions with our children to reduce tension and foster genuine cooperation.

Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., the author of Playful Parenting and The Opposite of Worry, is a licensed psychologist specializing in children’s play and play therapy. In addition to his private therapy practice, he is also a speaker and consultant to public and independent schools, and a teacher of parenting classes and classes for daycare teachers. Dr. Cohen is also the co-author, with Anthony DeBenedet, of The Art of Roughhousing. He wrote two books about children’s friendships and peer relationships with Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace: Best Friends, Worst Enemies, and Mom, They’re Teasing Me. https://www.playfulparenting.com/

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

 

  • How to lighten the mood in your household, especially during social isolation
  • Ways to help even the grumpiest child (or parent!) become playful
  • How play can diffuse anxiety in children

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Transcript:

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman, your host. I’m a marriage and family therapist, a former credential teacher, and the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing? Hopefully you’re all practicing physical isolation and managing life with kids under foot. A lot of you are trying to supervise your children’s schoolwork and work from home and take care of your children. And then there are those of you with little ones who are desperate to go to the park. So wow, it’s really stretching every parent in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. So we want to help however we can. I’ve put together a variety of free and almost free ways of sharing support with parents, including a special masterclass tomorrow on homeschooling in isolation. As a former homeschooling parent, myself and a credentialed teacher, I’m going to share tips and suggestions for making homeschooling easier and more fun for your family.

Speaker 1:

So please check that out. If you have questions or you need ideas for how to make homeschooling go better, you can visit https://susanstiffelman.com/ to find out about that class and of course the replay will be available if you can’t attend live. We also have our free and wonderful Better Together Mondays, which is a great way for parents to come together kind of in person online and get support and comradery. This week I was joined by Tina Payne, Bryson, last week by Janet Lansbury and on Monday the sixth I’ll be joined by Michelle Borba, all wonderful people and sharing lots of practical usable information with you to offer support and help you find your way through this time. I hope to see you there and you can certainly invite a friend or lots of friends to take part. There’s plenty of room and it’s free. Next week on April 7th I’ll be joined by Katherine Woodward Thomas, the author of conscious uncoupling for a special class on co-parenting during covid 19 we’ll talk about navigating the additional challenges that come with kids going back and forth between households when we’re no longer living with our child’s other parent.

Speaker 1:

And we’ll also touch on how to reduce tension with your current living co-parent if you have one. And things are getting a little bumpy as they are for many families. So there’s lots going on in our Parenting Without Power Struggles community. We just had a free online sing along which you can still find on our website. So sign up for our newsletter, visit https://susanstiffelman.com/ look under Help For Parents and you’ll see all the updates and all the support. Now. Last week I was joined by Dr. Lawrence Cohen to teach a class on playful parenting, which has the name of his wonderful book, one of my all time favorite parenting books. Since everybody is hunkered down right now without access to your parks or play dates. I thought I would just share a little clip from our almost hour and a half class here in this podcast. So you’ll get to peek at what we talked about because play is one of the best ways to help kids release their big feelings and reduce tension and anxiety. And I know that some of us are naturally goofy and playful, myself included, but lots of parents find it really hard to shift into play mode with their kids. So in this clip you’ll hear me talking with Larry about how to be honest about the seriousness of the situation while helping our kids trust that we are confident and capable of seeing them through this difficult time and using play to bring it all together and lighten the atmosphere on our home. Have a listen.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. We need to counteract some of the seriousness that we’re all facing.

 

Speaker 2:

Exactly. We have to balance being honest. Right? So this is, I think one of the first questions is, do we, do we share with our children what we’re feeling? Yeah. Because in a way it’s different if our children are scared of monsters under the bed, and we’re not scared of that. We can be calm and we can, we can say, look, take a look at me and look in my eyes. But a lot of us are more scared than our children are. And so we can’t do that. But children and dogs and horses, you, you can’t lie to them about your feelings. Right? There’s just too sensitive about feelings, especially their parents’ feelings. So I think we start with being honest about how we feel, but with the volume turned down. So we say, yeah, you know, I’m worried about this too and this is what I’m doing about it.

 

Speaker 2:

So you admit the feeling. I, you know, I’m, I’ve never been a teacher before and now I’m supposed to be your teacher and your mom. And it’s a little bit overwhelming. Ah, so you can turn that off. I’m down with your tone of voice. You can be a little light and playful, so you’re being truthful, but you’re not putting the firehose at your child of the full weight of all your feelings inside because it’s too much for them, for us. So you need somewhere else to go with that friend journal or something better together.

 

Speaker 1:

I’m really happy that you said that because our kids are watching us so carefully to figure out how they’re supposed to feel about these circumstances and we then they are also going to know whether we’re lying or, or being disingenuous and it consents such conflicting, confusing messages to them as they try and make sense of the world in general, to have parents who are not congruent.

 

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And so you can, but you can be truthful, but also be multiple. Right. So we’re not one thing. So yeah, we’re worried. Yeah, we’re overwhelmed. We can still have some fun today. Yeah. Nice. Yeah. So one thing that, that, you know, with the seriousness point that, that we started with, I think a timer is a really good friend too to a parent to say, I’m going to set the timer for 10 minutes and let’s just be goofy and silly. Well, I’m going to set it for 20 minutes and we’ll just, I’m going to put my phone down and whatever you want to do, let’s do. And cause you can’t do that all day and a lot of people will try to do it all day and you’ll be burned out and no time. 

 

Speaker 1:

Yeah. The timer and, and we can talk about the digital digital stuff too. There’s a lot of, there are a lot of classes on my website about screen time and yeah. I know that all, almost everyone I know all the parents are, you know what the rules are kind of out the window right now. I heard somebody maybe with Glennon talking about put the TV on, if you’re really burnt out, put the TV on, turn off the volume and turn on the subtitles or the captions. And two hours later. That’s your reading lesson.

 

Speaker 2:

That’s excellent. I think that we do have to let go of some of this anxiety about schoolwork. Yeah, your children will be fine. And this is, this is all very clear. Anybody who’s had one child sick for a few months, you know, they catch up, they’re fine, everybody’s in the same boat. We can, there’s so much pressure about this, but actually priority one should be getting through it. I’m connecting and that sharing, you know, we’ve, you know, I called my book playful parenting, but that’s cause play goes out the window and things are under stress. But actually play is one way to connect. But empathy and emotional understanding is another way. And these are the two main ways. Empathy play. And that means if you’re, if you can be scared together, you can be sad together, you can be happy together. You’re sharing that emotion.

 

Speaker 1:

You know, attachment is one of the cornerstones of my work. I love the work of dr Dr. Gordon Neufeld and the stages of attachment that he assures us through as he helps us understand the first six years of a child’s life in terms of proximity, sameness, belonging and loyalty, belonging, loyalty, significance, love and being known. And I build a lot on that in my work and my classes, my membership program, my books, and one of the ways that we foster attachment and which has the additional benefit, not only of making us feel close to our children and vice versa, but that reduces oppositional behavior, creates receptivity and kids so that they will tell us what they’re going through. And one of the best ways to foster attachment is play, right?

 

Speaker 2:

Yup. Absolutely. And if you’re not playful, I have good news for you, which is I was not a playful person. I was not a relaxed, goofy person. I’m glad to hear that you were Susan, but I wasn’t. And I learned, I learned on the job. Having a child, do you just, one of the most fun things I found was how to figure out what makes them laugh.

 

Speaker 2:

You know, it’s not serious lectures that make them laugh. It’s not worrying, you know? So I had to give up some of that and do more falling over and making funny voices and make wearing funny hats and being silly and, and joining in. And and I also had to push my own fears. So we want our children to be brave and courageous and confident. Good. We have to push ourselves where we’re afraid. You mentioned Gordon Neufeld and there’s something that I took from him that I found really valuable, which is this idea that is called connect before you direct. And I think this is really profound, that and in this, Mmm. You know, being with our kids 24, seven, it’s going to come up more. It’s like time to do your homework, turn off the TV, stop playing the games. We really want to we do all this directing and then we either get, yeah, yeah, yeah. Or a sign or no way. Or you know, we, so the problem is not that the child is disobedient and defiance. And my problem is that there’s no connection. No. Before you say time to turn off the video game, you walk over, you sit down next to them shoulder to shoulder. What are you playing? What are you watching? What do you do? And tell me about it. Oh, that’s so interesting. I know. It’s going to be hard to turn it off and do some school work. I’ll help you. Yeah, great.

Speaker 1:

I hope you enjoyed that. I especially hope you are comforted to hear that the most important thing to focus on right now is connection and emotional understanding rather than worrying about our kids’ academics. It’s really good that we lower our expectations and trust that our kids will come through this a okay. They will. So let’s wrap up with a tip this week. See if you can set aside 10 minutes a day to play with each of your children one-on-one. I know that might sound difficult, but it will be so worth it. You might be roughhousing with them or chasing them around the house, or you might play catch one-on-one or build a Fort. Let your child, this is their time and we want them to be in the driver’s seat, so let them decide what your one-on-one playtime is going to look like and follow their lead and it really does pay off.

Speaker 1:

If you’d like to hear the full playful parenting class with Dr. Cohen with tons of great information and advice, just visit https://susanstiffelman.com/ and look for Help for Parents. You’ll find all the other classes and free get togethers there as well. We’re setting up so much support for you on that page. So last thing I want to say, please make sure you’re taking a little time every day to replenish your reserves. Whether that means you spend a few minutes sitting on the back porch or looking out the window to take in nature, or you call it trusted friend to offload or you watch a three minute inspiring video. Just make sure you’re filling your own cup each day even when it seems like you don’t have a minute to spare. And please, if you are struggling with depression or anxiety or addiction or abuse, please reach out for help. You can call +1 800-985-5990 for a disaster related mental health support, +1 800-985-5990 there is no shame in asking for help when life feels too hard. Please reach out for support if you need it. I hope you’re enjoying these episodes. It’s my pleasure and honor to share what I’m learning and have learned over the years with you. Please consider leaving a rating or review or telling a friend about it. We’re hoping to reach as many parents as we can with practical help and support. I look forward to staying in touch. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. I’ll see you next time.

 

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