Category Archives: family

What should my stepchild call me?

… I get letters … well, actually I get emails, often in response to this blog or my Facebook pages or referrals to my websites. And they are almost always about disasters hitting the dazed home of a fledgling stepfamily.

Generally, they are about some sort of breakdown in communication – My ex-spouse is causing trouble, or my kids hate my new spouse, or my new spouse can’t stand my kids, or they’re all driving me crazy – things like that.

And I don’t mean to belittle these issues because I’ve been there myself, 24 years ago when I married a sweet lady who came with a 14-year-old attachment in the form of an angry at the whole world girl. After going through a suicide attempt, physical and verbal attacks, and a threat to kill her mother, we survived, won her over, and moved on to teach others. So I get it. These Disasters really are serious, life changing events.

One question that pops up pretty regularly is the question I got this week: “what should a stepchild call their stepparent“. That is all they asked, no explanation, no idea of who was calling whom what. So I tried to cover the whole topic. And since my answer was deep and wide, I thought I might as well share it with you, my dear readers. My answer was …

What a stepchild calls his (or her) biological parent’s partner (legally wed or not) is up to 1) the child, 2) the stepparent, and 3) the biological parent. This order of control is important because no one can make a child think of the stepparent as “Dad” or “Mom” – that is entirely subject to the child’s own mindset. As long as the child is respectful, the title they use is usually more of an issue for them/you than for the child. If she chooses to call her stepparent by their first name, that is probably fine – as long as it is done respectfully.

It is the responsibility of the biological parent to teach their child to respect their partner. It is not the responsibility, or right, of the stepparent to school their partner’s child on manners or etiquette any more than it would be for them to make rules for the stranger’s kid at the mall. If your stepkid is bad mouthing you, do the same as you would at the mall – take it to the parent to deal with. (“Not my circus; not my monkeys,” so to speak.)

However, most of the time this question is asked, it is because the stepchild has started calling a stepparent Dad or Mom. And the biological parent is upset about what it might mean.

I understand why many biological parents are uncomfortable about hearing a relative newcomer to the family referred to as Dad or Mom. After all, that guy or gal is not, never has been, and never will be your child’s blood parent. (Adopted children and parents change everything. That’s a-whole-nother topic.) And grandparents seem to get more upset than even biological parents when they hear the D word or the M world used for “that other person.”

But, to a child who has been through divorce, labels become a bit fluid. When my own teenage stepdaughter, after four years of resistance and blow ups, one day casually said, “OK, thanks Dad,” she was telling me and her mom that she had finally accepted that I was there to stay, and that she respected me for playing the supporting role of dad-stand-in for her when she needed it.

My stepdaughter was not suffering from head trauma or a psychological break so that she was suddenly unsure who her blood/biological parent is. If I had stood next to her biological dad and ask her to pick out which one is which, she will still know who is whom. She hadn’t forgotten her father.

She is bestowing an honorary title on this adult who has proven him/herself to the child. She is outwardly saying what she has been inwardly thinking for awhile. It doesn’t mean she loves them more than you, or that she is replacing you, or that they are her “favorite.” It just means she is giving them that privilege.

Look at it this way, isn’t it great that your child has one more person in her life with whom she feels close to? That she has one more adult looking out for her? And, if your child feels this close to his or her stepparent, maybe it’s time you got to know them better, too.

As they say, “Keep your friends close and that jerk who has moved in on your family closer.”

God bless y’all,

Let me know if I can help.

Stepcoach Bob Collins


What’s Ahead for Your Family in 2018

You made it through another year! Yeah!

Well, you’ve made it through another year. Congratulations. No, really. Lots of other stepfamilies didn’t make it. (Remember, ±70% divorce rate for us?) So celebrate your success. And when you get through hoopin’ it up, here are some ideas for the next year that may make your next pre-New Year times even more celebratory.

Maybe 2017 was the first in your new family or maybe it was one of a series, but I’ll just bet there were some memorable moments in the last 12 months. High times, low times, disasters (of various sizes) and perhaps even some victories.

1) Don’t overlook the victories

Celebrate your victories

Sometimes they will tend to get lost in dealing with the disasters, but those victories are the building blocks for the rest of you lives together. You need the victories for when the disasters are smothering you. You need to be able to look back at some happy times, some surprising laughs, some peaceful Family times together.

So make a scrap book. A real one or one online. Actually “print” some of those photos from your phone and make a collage. (Gasp! What a thought!) memorialize your Happy Times. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

2) Give out awards

Which of your new tribe laughed the most? Who improved more over last year? Who overcame some major challenge? Who won an award at school (or work)? Which of you created some family-centered artwork?

These can be huge victories, or quiet accomplishments. Just be sure not to be sarcastic with your awards (unless that’s your whole new family’s thing!). And try to include either everyone or just one or two really notable victories. And make real awards. You can print out certificates of accomplishment, or make heavy duty cardboard medals and paint them gold. The point is, let your family members know you notice their efforts. Encourage them to try.

3) Make big plans together

Your family, too, can experience wild times at the beach

…you know, like a family. Take some time now to gather ideas about where everyone would like to go for a family vacation. It can be just a weekend outing nearby, or you can visit all the greatest cathedrals of Europe … maybe not. But you can discuss what you want to do, edited by what you can realistically do. Make a list, let proponents sell the idea, and discuss feasibility (i.e. teach the kids how to budget money and time). Then make another list of your top three favorites and choose.

4) Make little plans together

Let everyone (within reason, and with the bio-parent’s approval) put in their two-cents worth on Summer vacation weeks, birthday parties, maybe even special times for visitation. Be sure to include school events and sporting events.

The point of all this is to create and develop a sense of FAMILY so your kids and stepkids, and parents and stepparents can all take part in the growth of this new home. Give everyone a say in how this adventure goes.

All too often,

One big happy family

Children feel left out of the planning stages. They were blindsided by the divorce, and now a new adult has moved in, with their own traditions, ways, family members, and issues; and the kids can feel like they are just furniture or the family pets. They get told what will happen, when and where it will happen, and what they are expected to feel about all the changes.

By including them in the plans for next year – the big ones and little ones both – they can feel like they have some value in the new enterprise.

And you can have an even better victory celebration next year.

Holiday Survival Strategies

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

[SOURCE: – from 2011]

<NOTE: The following is an article I ran across while researching my divorcing parents’ guidebook. The advice is sound, and the need is ripe. If your children have been through a divorce, especially if it’s been this year, you need to be prepared for the shock and pain they will experience in their first big holiday with a broken family. Please don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your kids. Thanksgiving and Christmas are hyped so strongly that the divorced child is left behind on the frantic rush to The Perfect Christmas Morning. And for “our” kids, that Perfect picture doesn’t exist. Start now to prepare to guide them through the parties, the gift giving, the visitation, and the separation of the next few weeks. STEPcoach Bob Collins]

The holidays can be rough on divorced parents and their children David Murphy hasn’t started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The div orced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn’t want his real name used to protect his children’s privacy) doesn’t have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn’t crashed his ex-wife’s Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

“We try not to mess with the schedule when we don’t have to because it’s easier on both parties,” said Murphy. “As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other.”

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.

Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids — but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy — who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons’ well-being during the divorce — have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn’t you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you’re right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

<No matter how you feel about your ex, or whether your feelings are justified or not, one fact remains: your children still love both of you. Kids love their parents. It is in their blood – literally! The sooner you accept this fact the better for you. Parents who try to alienate their children from the other bio-parent aways lose. Always.>

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book “We’re Still Family,” about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. “The children were happiest where parents at least communicated,” said Ahrons, also the author of “The Good Divorce.” “They didn’t want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents.”

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal — at least until it becomes routine. If you’re a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you’ll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you’re on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you’re the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you’ll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

<The worst thing a divorced parent can do is to argue with (seen as Bullying to the kids) your child’s other parent. They don’t care at all who is right or wrong about whatever you’re fighting over. They love you both and need both their halves to function smoothly together.>

“Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce,” said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. “If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating.”

Don’t out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don’t screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don’t outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don’t buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they’re interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex’s house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter’s favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex’s truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can’t haul such a tree. “To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them,” Grissom said. “If that won’t be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition.”

<Instead of crushing your children’s cherished traditions and memories, recruit them to come up with new traditions. Maybe including some of the old, but (as you’ll tell them) this is their big chance to build exactly the kind of new family and home they want to live in. Encourage them to make plans, then follow through with them.>

Don’t push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that’s not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don’t feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven’t broken up yet, wait until January. Don’t be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don’t lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. “One parent will say, ‘Are you really going to bring her to this table?’ or ‘You can come without her.’ Avoid if it’s going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious.” Remember, it’s about your kids, not you.

<And all this was not their idea. They are struggling to survive with the new set-up their parents created. Make it as good for them ask possible. At least for a few days per year.>

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself — and/or others — the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you’re probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn’t want her real name used to protect her child, isn’t letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. “If my kid weren’t so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently,” said Jones, who has sole custody. “It’s a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings.”

He’s a jerk

If you’re a saint and your ex is a sinner and won’t take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it’s better for your child for you to let your ex “win” sometimes, even if you’re right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don’t need to control all eight nights. That doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. It means you’re a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

<But, don’t point it out to your kids. That will make you look like you are bad-mouthing their other parent, whom they love just as much as you. Let them figure it out themselves. Your kids are very observant. They KNOW who is playing nice and who is not.>

“How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger,” said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale’s Parenting Center. “Giving up a Christmas here or there means you’ll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It’s not only more rewarding; it’s more worthwhile long term.”

A Stepdaughter’s Side

I have been a stepdad for over 23 years, to a girl (young woman now) who is still very much defined by her dad’s coldness toward her. Try as I might over the years to be a Daddy for her, I am still just the guy who married her mom last. But I am grateful for the opportunities to play the part, from taking my grandson to doctor or dentist to helping her with “dad-like” tasks. I wish I could heal her heart, but only a bio-daddy can really do that.

The story borrowed here below is the other side of that story. The writer is a young lady who misses her stepdad after his divorce from her mom. I hope it opens some windows for you, as it did for me.

What is family? The question seems simple enough, so why has it shaken me to my core? My parents divorced when I was four years old. I don’t remember the divorce, or much of it. I remember splitting school vacations between my parent’s houses. I remember being a teenager, and joking about getting two Christmas […]

via Growing Pains — Casey Girard

TMI or Just the Facts, Ma’am

By Bob Collins

How much information do your children need in order to do what you require from them? Over load or insufficient data?

I have several devices, tablet, phone, laptop, etc, etc, as I’m sure you probably do, too. And I have several power supplies which I have collected over time with the devices. The power supplies are different amperages, stated in different ways, which drives my poor writer’s brain nuts.

This morning I was trying to choose between one power supply that said “output: 8.5 Amps” and another that said, “output: 500 mAmps.” >sigh< unable to find my old college math books, I consulted my next favorite source, Google.

Three hours later, after learning about basic quantum electronic theory and the origin of lightning-based home-schooled electromechanics, I stumbled upon a simple converter that told me, with the click of a simulated button, which one was more gooderer. 

We now have WAY too much information available for the efficient delivery of answers to befuddled, overworked humanoids. 


In our oversaturated, overstimulated, overinformationalized society, I am seeing so many cases of mis-communication between parents and their kids. We moan about a lack of respect from our children, when – I suspect – the problem is really a lack of connection. 

Parents have lately become victims of “Explain-itis” when it comes to giving directions to their children. The directive to stop hitting a playmate slowly melts into a long, dry lecture on the reasons for mutual respect, societal order, individuals’ personal rights versus self-esteem, and all the other catch words spewed out by everyone from the media to Facebook to educational flyers.

By the time a well-meaning parent has explained the psycho-social theory behind playground fairness and mutual concern for the planet, the poor child has forgotten what the lecture started over. And he has lost a little more respect for Mom’s or Dad’s intellectual usefulness.

A simple, “Tommy! Stop hitting that boy! Now, apologize to him; shake his hand; and get in the car, we’re going home,” is an excellent delivery of the necessary information and steps to be taken for Tommy to end the inappropriate action, reconcile with the other child, and begin his next action.

Our children’s minds are not developed, until their mid-twenties, to incorporate and process complex multiple streams of information. The most effective way to instruct them is with simple directives, delivered in a straightforward order, so that they can process one step at a time.

Long detailed explanations about why some actions must be taken, are best left for later, perhaps at bedtime when the excitement of the moment has passed. 

If you spend too much time carefully enlightening your child about the engineering facts of the internal combustion engine and the momentum-to-surface texture friction ratio required to halt a moving automobile – you may end up finishing the explanation in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Just like I was distracted and confused by all the in-depth discussions about amperages, your kids don’t necessarily need to understand the “Why” and the background, as much as they need to know What you want them to do first, second, and third.

Remember that kids don’t like “TMI”! 

[by Bob Collins, Copyright 2017]

A Letter for the Family Courts

[THIS is a letter I am sending to all divorce attorneys and family court judges in Sebastian and Crawford County. PLEASE NOTE the 2nd through 4th paragraphs. This is Very Important Stuff!]

…. “One point of confusion seems to come up occasionally: who exactly is Required by law to attend the parenting classes. Arkansas Code states:

A.C.A. § 9-12-322 (2017) Divorcing parents to attend parenting class.
(a) When the parties to a divorce action have minor children residing with one (1) or both parents, the court, prior to or after entering a decree of divorce, may require the parties to:

  (1) Complete at least two (2) hours of classes concerning parenting issues faced by divorced parents; or

  (2) Submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.

“So, each parent, regardless of *custody orders, *who filed for divorce, or *who intends to be primary caregiver of the children, is required to attend either the class or private mediation. Parents who attend these classes understand it is beneficial for both of the parents and all the children for both parents and any other adult family members to attend the classes. 
“Our class plan still emphasizes parents not arguing in front of the children; cooperating regarding child support payments, shared responsibilities, and household rules that affect the children; teaching children to respect both parents; and helping children cope with the divorce.

“As of this Summer, we will have been teaching our Parenting Together class for divorcing parents for 13 years! That’s a lot of classes (over 230) and nearly 2,300 parents who have been shown how to guide their children through divorce.

Thank you for your part in directing these hurting, confused parents to our class where they can receive direction and a plan for their futures with their children. Your recommendations have helped greatly.

“I have included some brochures you may photocopy and hand out to your clients or interested parties. As always, you are welcome and encouraged to visit my classes at any time at no charge. Please let me know in advance, so I can have handouts and information packets for you.”


Bob Collins

Certified Domestic Mediator

The Bible, Divorce, & Re-marriage

Right or wrong, between 45 and 75 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and most of those divorcees will re-marry!

There’s no use dancing around the obvious point that most stepfamilies are formed from a controversial act: divorce. And there’s no way to avoid the fact that many religions—and therefore many religious people—have a problem dealing with stepfamilies.

Divorce and remarriage are tough fits in our world: the Bible says God hates them (Malachi 2:14-16), but our society encourages them and makes them convenient, so it’s just a fact of life we must deal with. It’s a fact, too, that there are many ministers and well–meaning folk out there who try to ignore — or worse yet, condemn — those of us who are in a stepfamily.

But the fact of the matter is that, while Jesus discouraged the practice (except in particular cases; Matthew 5:36), He never refused His care and healing power to any who sincerely asked for it. So, as Christ-followers (you know…“WWJD”), neither can we. (And by we, I mean both we in STEP- Carefully! Inc., and we as in you, if you’re a Christian!)

Jesus even demonstrated how to deal with this sticky subject. In John 4:6–30, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman at the well that she’s been remarried several times…then He drops the subject and goes on to minister to her needs. And as a result, you’ll recall, an entire town came out to meet Him.

That’s the model we follow. While acknowledging that divorce should never happen, we accept the fact that it does, help as much as we can, and move on. We don’t have a choice, really, since everyone involved with our programs have been divorced, remarried, or have family members who have lived through it. That’s why it’s important to look for a church, a minister, a counselor, or a therapist who has had personal experience with the challenges of divorce, or who has an open heart and mind about it.

If you ever need to talk, please feel free to contact us. Been there; done that; got the scars to understand!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Security in the Password Age

Whether you are establishing a secure link to your bank’s website, or attempting to keep your teenagers out of your computer, passwords are a fact of life in today’s online world. And passwords can be both a blessing – as they keep information safe – and a curse – since they are often so bloody hard to remember.

When I begin to play “The Password Game,” my wife just leaves the room. She says she doesn’t want to hear my explosions of rage as I try every password I have ever used, as well as, of course, as the one I set up for the stupid site! I have no idea what she’s talking about.

The following article, from The Dictionary Blog, offers some good advice to keep your surfing secure and, hopefully, non-violent.

 STEPcoach Bob Collins 


Christmas (Talk) In August!

In our local support group this week we happened on a ripe topic. (And when I say we “happened” on it, I mean that literally. Sometimes I have no idea where God will lead us until we get there!) We fell into talking about Christmases past and to come. In particular, what we had all spent on our kids and families last Christmas. Many were not proud!
One couple said they fought so badly she asked to be let out of the car on the way to a family gathering. She just sat at a gas station until he and the kids were through and came back to get her! They both seemed unhappy about that event.
Another guy told of how his family tradition was to just buy for the kids and maybe a gift or two for another family member; however, his new wife’s family tradition involved expensive gifts for each member of a large family. They also held Christmas gatherings and dinners at several houses … where more gifts were exchanged! He still sounded stunned by it all.
How many gifts did they give out? “Way too many,” seemed to be the consensus. One couple looked at each other, counting to themselves and came up with “50 or 55” gifts per child! Good grief!
Why do we do this? Most said they just got carried away with sales and last minute ideas. But one dad admitted that part of his over-gifting was to make up to his kids for their not having such a great life since their parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage. Most of the others either nodded agreement or just stared at their hands.
So I asked them, What do you think is a proper number of gifts for a child to receive for Christmas. Not your child, but an average child from an average family in our socio-economic neighborhood. … No one volunteered for what sounded like a trap, so I went around the table and ask each person. The general average seemed to be four or five gifts per child was fair.
Why numbers of gifts per child instead of amount spent, one mom asked. Because most pre-teen kids seem to be more interested in how many packages they have to open and the gifts they walk away with, than how many dollars each item cost.
One dad said they’d settled the issue last year by reading the Christmas story, then pointing out that since Baby Jesus (whose birthday this is supposed to be about) only received three gifts, wasn’t it fair to limit the kids to only three gifts? Nice idea!
We wound up all agreeing that it might be a good idea to set goals or budgets for this year’s holidays. Our homework for the next week will be for each couple to come back with their set plan. It can include only the kids, or be for the kids and all the adults. It can be about numbers of gifts, or about budgeted dollars, or both.
I’d like to propose this same project for your family. Sit down together, you and your sweetie, and decide now – while it’s still hot and very non-Christmas-y – what your goal (or your limit if you’re more comfortable with that measure) will be for your family this year. Write it down and keep it where you can find it again around the middle of November. And then see what you think of it come January.
Please write me and let me share with our other families your ideas. I know they will appreciate hearing from you – we all need to share ideas, don’t we? 
Oh, and … Merry Christmas!
STEP coach Bob

Guest Post: Playtime!

This is a very nice borrowed-with-permission article that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. It originally appeared in Simple Marriage blog at Stepfamilies are all parents – otherwise, you’d just be a couple. And I have been hearing so much lately about issues and clashes between husbands and wives about the kids, that I am pretty kid-minded. So when this post came my way I grabbed it to share with you. Enjoy. And let me know if and how this applies or helps your family.




Post written by Dr. Corey Allan.
Play has become a lost art in the adult world.
Perhaps even in the kid world … play is not be what it used to be.
Gone are the days of tag, chase, tackle the man with the ball, dodgeball, and the like.
Also gone are the “dangerous toys” like the metal Tonka trucks that are indestructible, the monkey bars that tower into the air, the tree house built way up in the tree with a homemade zip line going into the garage, and the metal slide that’s 4 stories tall with no side-rails and several bumps on the way down. Okay so the last one may be a bit of an exaggeration but it’s not far off.
Play serves a great purpose.
Remember when you used to call up your friends or head over to their house and greet them with “wanna play?” It didn’t matter what you played, you’d make it up.
Today it seems that play is all but dead. Especially in the adult world. Even parenting has been impacted.
Parenting often becomes more about the child’s achievement and directing towards goals – be it the child’s – or far more likely the parent’s goals.
Schools are doing away with recess in the belief that giving up play time will allow more time for study. Even preschoolers are not immune to this shift.
Through the 80’s and 90’s a 4 billion dollar industry sprang up … tutoring. With 26% of it being devoted for 2 to 6 year olds. Babies … who should be spending more time in imaginative play than structured learning.
Play develops a child’s cognitive skills.
By play, I mean true child directed play: free, unstructured play where the kids invent the activities that reflect their own curiosities and interests.
Too many children are parentified, or expected to become adults too fast. And too many adults have added too many stipulations and parameters to play – in short, they’ve lost the art of play.
Play is critical in a child’s life. According to David Elkind, play is vital in teaching a child how to control himself and interact with others.
But play is also important in the adult world.
It opens to door to new solutions and creative sparks. It adds passion and energy to life and marriage.
Researcher Jaak Panksepp believes play turns on hundreds of genes in the brain. Specifically, play stimulates neurogenesis to hasten the development of the frontal cortex in the brain.
Play is vital to the development of our children and the health of our families, but it is also vital to us as adults.
So what can you do today?
  1. Encourage your kids to play with other kids. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t seem to happen that often. Many parentified children would rather play with adults than other kids. While this may seem mature and grown-up, anytime a kid plays with an adult, imagination and leadership skills are stifled. Adults often take charge or limit the imagination because we can’t compete with a child’s imagination level. When you do play with a child, let go of your imagination restrictions and let them take the lead. When they want you to be a princess or a prince who helps tame the nice dragon so you can fight the mean one, do it!
  2. Play with your kids everyday for at least 30 minutes. Spend time as a family playing. One of my favorite times each day is the wrestling time I get with my daughter and son. My son, before he could even talk, would walk over to the floor and point meaning “it’s time to wrestle dad!” Before long, my daughter and my wife would be in the mix. Now that he’s 5 he just runs and jumps on me anytime I’m within range. It’s a great bonding time as well as a testing of my children’s strength and abilities.
  3. Take your kids out of school for a day. You don’t have to do this too often, but take your kids someplace instead of school. You could even incorporate some learning opportunities into this. Visit the zoo, the aquarium, local museums, or galleries. You could even go to the park. Give them an unexpected break from their normal structure and spend the time together.
  4. Play with your spouse. Pull out the games after the kids are in bed, or go outside ride bikes together. Build a blanket fort in the living room. Point is, you don’t have to be structured in every aspect of your life … just play.
Now … off you go. Have fun storming the castle!