I tried to teach my child with books. He gave me only puzzled looks. I tried to teach my child with words. They passed him by often unheard. Despairingly, I turned aside, “How shall I teach this child?” I cried. Into my hand, he put the key. “Come,” he said, “play with me.”
Building close attachments with your child, especially if your child has a trauma background, is foundational to parenting. Bonding with a child who is resistant to attachment can feel like a daunting task. Conscientious parents may try so hard to devote themselves to parenting correctly that family members end up feeling stressed and discouraged instead of attached. It’s refreshing to learn that it’s possible to build a strong relationship with your child in a way that can be fun for both of you. Deborah Gray, attachment therapist, writes “Using fun and games to connect with your child can reduce stress for both of you and lead to a secure, enjoyable relationship.” Adoptive Families, Attaching through Love, Hugs, and Play.
People are wired for social interaction. In her book, Attachment Play, Aletha Solter highlights the science behind the importance of play. She writes, “Did you know that positive social interaction stimulates the production of oxytocin, a ‘feel-good’ chemical that reduces stress and promotes growth and healing while enhancing your children’s brain development? Cooperative play stimulates areas of the brain involved in the control of aggressive behavior, and laughter resolves anger and anxiety by reducing stress hormones.”
The Children’s Home Society of Minnesota (15 Games that Encourage Attachment, October 22, 2014, Rainbowkids.com) lists games for various ages that encourage attachment including:
Play hide and seek.
Donut Dare- hold a donut on your finger through the hole and have your child see how many they can take before it falls off.
Play a memory game by first having your child look you over very carefully. Then leave the room and return after you’ve changed something about yourself. See if s/he can figure out what is different. (Adjust the difficulty level according to your child’s age.)
Hold your child in your arms and dance.
Give your child a pillow ride. Have your child sit on a big floor pillow as you drag him/her around the room. Only move when given eye contact.
Engage in an M & M hockey rivalry. Use bendy straws and blow candy across the table to the other person’s goal. When one of you scores a goal, the opponent feeds that person candy.
Have a marshmallow fight! Each person uses a pillow as a shield. Sit on the floor and throw marshmallows at each other.
Play is one of the most enjoyable ways to build attachment with children or babies. So, enjoy the moment, set aside the worries of parenting and enjoy!