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When You Don’t Like Playing With Your Kids

Do you enjoy playing with your kids? If not, you are not alone. Here are a few insights to encourage you.

If you don’t enjoy playing with your kids, please know that you are not alone. Such sentiments are frequently suppressed by shame-filled parents who begrudgingly endure endless rounds of Go Fish and hours of plot-less puppet shows. These moms and dads fear what such a declaration would reveal about them, so they quietly hide their dirty little secret. So how can we address these repressed, but not uncommon, feelings? Here we will explore some insights and encouragement for parents.

Be honest

Parents are people too. If you don’t enjoy certain activities with your kids, it’s really okay – you can stop kicking yourself for it. Acknowledge that you are an individual with your own personal likes and dislikes. Without apology, you can gently voice the fact that while you may not love puppet shows, because you love your children, you would be happy to play with them. What a wonderful way to model sacrificial love to your kids. Furthermore, you may just find that such a perspective-providing confession actually frees you up to focus on enjoying your kids even if you don’t enjoy the activity itself. It will also give your children an opportunity to start to see you as a person with his or her own interests and preferences.

Kids are highly trained at observing and interpreting their parents’ subconscious feelings and subsequent behavior. If you “fake” liking an activity with your children, they are going to know it. Unfortunately, if their assessment skills are a little off, they could falsely interpret your distaste for the activity as distaste for them. Here’s what you can do instead:

  1. You can try to find ways to spice the activity up to perk your own interest
  2. You can set a timer for the activity (knowing that it will end may free you up to engage in it more fully)
  3. You can take turns with your children in deciding what you will play together

Take turns

There is no rule that you must only play what your children want to play. If there are play activities that you prefer, tell them what those are. When it’s Mommy/Daddy and me play time, you can rattle off a list of things that you both enjoy doing. If there is an activity that your kids like, but you don’t, show them the power of compromise by playing it with them and then encouraging them to do things with you that are less desirable for them. The home is a great canvas for practicing social skills, sharing and negotiation. These are important skills your children will need for the school bus, playground and library. When you engage in activities you both like, you help your child develop an other-centered mindset which will take them far in life.

Get in touch with your “inner child”

For some of us, this is very easy. Some parents are still just kids wrapped in an adult-size body. However, if you find yourself too refined or “mature” to have a water-balloon fight with your children, try to figure out why. Do you fear losing control? Do you fear losing respect from your children if you stoop to their “level”? Do you wonder what others will think? Give up these fears and seize the moment. You will be making memories and deepening your relationship with your children as you allow yourself to enter into their childhood for a moment. Remember: you are the parent and you can return to that role any time you want.

If you find play time with your kids something you dread instead of anticipate, it is possible to make some changes. To be sure, parenting is not all about you and your needs, but it isn’t all about your kids’ either. Balance is the key to any successful relationship.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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