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Why should I play with my kids?

My son came running around the corner of the house. It was just as I had hoped. I gave a wild, primitive yell as I sprang out at him. He hit the ground quickly, trying to avoid my grasp. I reached down and tagged him easily, and the burden of being “it” was transferred once again.

As I searched for a new hiding place in front of the house, my wife called from the front door. “Mark, it’s eight o’clock, the kids have to come in!”

I was a bit dumbfounded. We’d been playing tag for two hours.

In those two hours, I’d been unaware of time. There were no worries about projects at work, what time the kids needed to go to bed, or whether we had enough money to last the month. My focus had been on playing tag, and nothing else. And when your focus is complete, you’ve entered a state that has no limitations. Your joy and passion can come alive, and your children’s can, too.

Being in a complete state of play is one of the gifts our children give us. It is one of the ways we can allow our kids to transform us. We are transformed when we find the innate playfulness that’s within all of us, and we put our “adult worries” aside. We are transformed when we apply this creative energy to our relationship with our children. And when we enter this state of playfulness with our children, we’ve entered their world in a way they’ll remember the rest of their lives.

For many years, athletes have trained to find the optimal performance state called “the zone.” When athletes are in the zone, they perform at their highest levels, and feel a sense of joy and positive energy.

This same performance state can be found before your interactions with your children. And when it is, your relationship will reach a higher level. Here are some guidelines to reach a higher level of play with your kids:

  • Drop all work thoughts before you see your kids. Exercise, meditate, or use some other technique to allow your full presence after work.
  • Let your kids call the shots during your play. If you have a need to control things, swallow your urges and be ready to listen and learn. They’ll let you know what they want.
  • Do a “body scan” before spending time with your kids. Just like athletes, parents need to determine if they’re ready for optimal performance. Are you ready to play, or are you feeling angry and agitated? Determine this first, and take steps to ready yourself for play.
  • Make sure your kids have time for play. Take a close look at their schedules–pay attention to their activities after school, sports, or TV and video time. Do you need to say “no” to some of these? Have the courage to take strong action.
  • Put structures in place to ensure your work and home life are separate. Take your work phone off the hook, and avoid sneaking down to the computer when your kids are present. Enlist your spouse to help determine if you’re fully present with your kids.

Research has shown that kids laugh about one hundred times a day, and adults laugh about six times. Our kids are showing us something.

Isn’t it time we started learning how to be playful again?

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