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Family Life: Cement family relationships – play!

In your family, what do you play? How often do you play? How do you use play?

Family relationships are built and cemented with communication not just with words but also with actions. It is good to see families go to the mall together, to watch movies or go on vacation together. But parents often miss out on a good relationship enhancer that opens communication lines faster – playing together. Usually, parents only watch while their children play, instead of engaging in play WITH their children.

Play is natural and to be expected of children as it is crucial for their optimal development in many areas. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states: “Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence” (NAEYC 2009, 14). It is considered a child’s right by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. An interesting passage in the Bible gives a vision of what would take place in the time to come: “This is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain . . . Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there’” ( Zechariah 8: 3-5). It seems that play is part of the nature of children and the way by which they learn more about their world and acquire character, skills and competencies.
Play, however, is something more enjoyable when those they love also enjoy playing with them. It gives a feeling of importance and assures children that they are likeable and enjoyable to be with. Play somehow “glues” family relationships and makes family fun and enjoyable and attractive for children. It is in the strength of positive relationships that parents establish with their children in work and play that the latter become responsive to parental discipline.
Play is not only good for children but for adults as well. It is a stress reliever, therapeutic, a “moment cherisher” for the parents. It enables parents to enter into their children’s world, and provide good opportunities to teach them lessons about life. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play in California, says that “play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice” (Wallace 2017, Washington Post).

Play is a relationship-builder we practiced in our family when our children were growing up. We played hide-and-seek, tag, patintero, duck-duck goose in their younger years; different kinds of board and card games like guesstures, Pictionary, Scrabble, Word games, Dutch blitz and others in their teen years. We joined them and their friends too in playing these games. We also played street badminton and basketball (yes, I learned to play this in my fifties and still do now!) as a family, and supported them in those we could not do (such as skateboarding and its tricks). These times brought in lots of laughter and fun times, and we saw the positive effects in our children’s lives and in ours.

In this age of screens and technology, it is especially crucial to get into the habit of regularly playing together, especially active games, for children’s normal optimal development and creating healthy family relationships. This week’s news on an intelligent boy who committed suicide by following instructions from an online game called Momo Challenge that specifically targets children is a case in point. This “momo’ image apparently appears onscreen in some harmless games and YouTube videos and asks a child to download it (Madarang 2019, Interaksyon). Two FIlipino teenagers in Dubai also committed suicide due to another online challenge called Blue Whale ( Research on the impact of video games especially on children’s brain show the addictive and adverse effects on them and their personality and behavior. Thus, there is still no substitute to active physcial games and even live board and card games for the benefits they give.

Parents in two Quezon City public schools our team trained in parenting late last year testified that their relationships improved as they learned to not only allow their children to play but learned to play with them as well in their homes as an application of one lesson “Nay, Tay, Laro Tayo!” We engaged both parents and children in games for them to experience that one is never too old to play and that it is fun to play with children.

So how about you?


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