Staylistening During a Play Morning

Photo (C) Maj-Britt Hoiaas Lassen 2009

For several weeks, my 5-year old daughter hasn’t been able to play independently at home. She either wants to play with a friend or wants to watch a video. We also have a one-year-old so my time to play with her has been less than when she was younger.

We took her to a PLI (Hand in Hand) PlayMorning and she and I did Special Time. Right after that, she announced she didn’t want me to be near her—she just wanted to play with her friend, who was also there.

When I said I did want to play with her, or at least be close by, she burst into tears. She had a long cry, begging me to leave her alone, moving around the yard, with me following, but not too closely. When she would stop crying and tell me that she really didn’t want me near, I would listen, but then say, “I do want to stay with you while you’re having these feelings,” and move one step closer. She would cry hard, sometimes throwing herself down on the ground.

Several interesting issues came up while she was crying. She accused me of being a “copycat” at one point, and at another point, threatened to show me her panties if I didn’t go away. I am guessing that these are reflections of things that have happened at school that have disturbed her.

There was one part of her cry when, every time she threw herself down, crying about how she didn’t want me close, she would throw herself down closer to me. For a good part of the time she was crying, she was also kneading a piece of string cheese as if it were play-dough. She was crying, trying to make me go away, and shredding the string cheese all at the same time.

I had a PLI (Hand in Hand)staff person kneeling right next to me for the last part of her big cry, with a hand on my back. This person said little to my daughter, but it was good support for me as we went through this emotional time. My daughter didn’t look at this other person once—she was focusing on me, looking very directly at me, every time she begged me to go away.

Finally, after half an hour or more of crying, the staff person suggested that I open my arms and invite her to come close to me. She came into my arms, threatened to put cheese in my ear, and pretty soon, she was able to laugh and enjoy being close to me again. We ended the morning hiding together under a blanket, playing well and close.

The help I got from PLI (Hand in Hand) staff was great. One person stayed with me for the first half of her cry, when she was running away from me through the yard. She invited me to pay attention to everything my daughter was saying, and doing, as important communication. I had previously been focusing on getting through to the end of a cry, waiting for the results I have learned will come, without attaching much attention to what she was telling me throughout the process.

It was a revelation to think that the accusations of being a copycat might be a reflection of what the children say to her at school when she tries to join in, for instance. This person also pointed out that my daughter was looking straight at me through her tears, communicating very directly with me, believing that I was there and listening.

Having someone from outside the family who believes in my child and believes in the importance of our interaction while she’s upset is so supportive.

In the afternoon, my daughter seemed so confident.  We went on a difficult hike and she kept announcing that she is a great, strong hiker!  She was able to negotiate physical challenges that would have made her upset previously.

That evening, she was saying the name of the staff member who stayed with us over and over throughout the house, and she was treasuring her name tag from the morning. She put it on her pajamas, then onto her other clothes the next morning. And she played very happily by herself for a long time that evening, putting name tags on her dolls and stuffed animals. She told everyone she could think of about the PlayMorning, and is asking when the next one will be.

– a mom in California

Hand in Hand offers a wide variety of resources for parents looking to build strong family connections. If you would like to start building more support for you and your family consider joining the upcoming Parent Intensive (open to local and distance learners).

We also offer one-on-one consulting that is an excellent way to get individual attention for your situation when it’s convenient for you.

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