Children do something truly amazing and they do it naturally; they play. They seek and find ways to play regardless of where they are or with whom they are surrounded. The essence of play is natural curiosity and a spirit of enjoyment and most of the time it pervades early childhood spilling over into middle childhood and even a bit into the preteen years.
As a parent you are one of your child’s guides. You can steer them in healthy, empowering directions and you can help them become responsible global citizens. One of the most authentic and enjoyable ways to connect with your child is through play. Get down on their level. Crawl into their playhouse, help them dig the deep hole they have been working on in the backyard, take a few minutes and really be present to building the boat they are building with LEGOS.
Through play, you and your child can connect on an easy and resonant level. While playing with your child you can introduce values and concepts of peace and gratitude. For example, after you dig the deep hole that your child has been working on, talk about where to put the dirt where it will be best for the yard and it will not interfere with the lives of the plants and animals there. While playing in your child’s playhouse model peaceful communication as you act out different characters using that as an opportunity to provide gratitude-based scripts (imaginary words different people would say to one another). An example would be, “Jimmy, thank you so much for coming over to my house. I am so grateful to have you here. I love to see the smiling light in your eyes. It gives me a peek into the beautiful person you are on the inside!”
After, you can talk about how it might feel to be someone who received gratitude. How does it feel when someone says thank you? And, is it different when it is just a routine thank you as opposed to when it is heartfelt? Helping your child imagine what another person is feeling builds the skill of empathy. Empathetic people are more successful in all areas of life overall and have a higher quality of life. Interpersonal skills are incredibly important and you model these healthy behaviors for your child.
When you choose conscious awareness and full presence your child receives the benefit twofold. First, you are a real playmate engaged for a time in your child’s world. Second, a clear model of a present human being is directly in front of your child providing a blueprint for how to live.
If you are comfortable, you can even talk about peace and gratitude directly and in only positive terms. Use statements that affirm: “It feels so good to honor and respect every person we meet.” Instead of, “People who don’t honor each other aren’t peaceful and respectful.”
Provide a positive script for your child. Carry this through into daily life too if you are able. And let’s be clear, everyone has bad days. You are a human being and an adult dealing with day to day life’s joys and hardships. Sometimes you may slip into a less positive mindset. In moments that are tough, you can bring yourself back to focus on that for which you are grateful.