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Love, according to the Oxford dictionary, is "an intense feeling of deep affection." Two years ago, I featured a 3 part series related to how parents and children and enjoy quality time with each other through various simple, interactive games. Games that don't require you to purchase anything and that you can even do while waiting on the long supermarket line.
Below is a summary of that 3 part series, including the games that I most often recommend to the parents I work with who have children between 2-8 years old.
Games that Include Making Eye Contact-
Looking into your child's eyes is a form of non-verbal communication that is intimate because it allows us to be present with one another. A few eye contact games that I often recommend in my practice include:
Games that Include Touch-
Games that involve touch are important for a child and for us as human beings because research has shown how infants actually thrive when touched and how nurturing touch allows us to feel connected and loved.
Below are a few games/activities that involve touch.
Activities that Include Verbal Affirmation-
For those of you familiar with the 5 love languages, the concept behind words of affirmation is to verbally express how much we love and appreciate your loved one.
For kids, it can look a bit different depending on the age but here are a few suggestions that can be used throughout your daily routine.
1). Write a note/draw a picture - in case you've missed it, food marketers now sell snacks with wrappers you can write on. See what I'm referring to here. These opportunities to write or draw a picture for your child while you are away from them can reassure them that even though you are apart, you are still thinking about them. Don't want to buy these kinds of items? I hear ya! Use post-it notes or good old-fashioned paper and tape. It's not about the item vs the note/drawing.
2). State what you love about them - during mealtime or bedtime, finish the following statement:
I love your________ (eyes, ears, smile, laugh) because _________ (your eyes sparkle so bright, your ears hear so well, your smile lights up a room, your laugh is so contagious).
The purpose behind making such a statement is to highlight the greatness of your child. Avoid commenting on what they are wearing or how their hair looks. Instead, focus on who they are.
This can take some practice to get used to doing but with practice it is doable. If you find yourself struggling with this one, simply state what you notice about them. For example, I love your brown eyes., I love your big smile., I love your loud laugh.
3). Sing a Song - for some parents, it can be hard to verbally express their love directly. This is where singing and dancing can come in. Under the guise of the lyrics in the song, a parent/guardian can lip-sync the words of the song to the child. The key to doing this is to make sure you are looking and pointing to your child so they know you are "singing" to them. Depending on your child's age, a lullaby can also help; Think, Twinkle, twinkle little star.
Non-verbal Cues to be aware of with the games mentioned:
For eye contact games/activities: Some children can be uncomfortable making eye contact due to various issues. If you find your child is not engaging in the games I mentioned, don't push the issue. Just work around it if possible or if you believe it is better, don't play these games at all.
For physical touch games/activities : some children are sensitive to touch. For some, touch can be too ticklish or painful which can dysregulate them. For others, the proximity of having someone close to them may be triggering.
If you find your child is not playing along and instead tries to hit you or to turn it into a different game, it could be a sign that they are uncomfortable and it may be best to switch up the game or not play at all.
For activities that involve affirming your child: being able to verbally express yourself as a parent/guardian requires your patience and insight into knowing what you are capable of giving. It will also require you to not expect anything in return from your child.
Words of affirmation are meant to celebrate your child's greatness without expecting anything in return. If you expect our child to reciprocate what you are saying, then it will change the nature of the interaction from one of unconditional love to conditional love.
For some additional tips on how to play games with your child, check out this blog post I wrote.
Thank you for reading and I wish you and your loved one a Happy Valentine's Day!
Christine M. Valentín is a Registered Play Therapist™ who helps children 3-8 struggling with managing their emotions, Parents- who want to improve their parenting skills and Adults - who are concerned about an aging parent. As a Latina therapist, with 14 years of private practice experience, Christine loves helping people become a more confident version of themselves and develop better relationships within their family. To read her other blog posts, click here. To check out her latest workshops or courses, click here.
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