By Andrea McCracken
When my 5-year-old started kindergarten, she would come home from school day a tightly wound and prone to crying. She seemed to be letting all her frustrations and bad feelings out on me, and although I could recognise that she was feeling tension from being in a new class, in new school, with new faces and a new teacher, I didn't know how to stay calm through her big feelings.
Adding to the load, her sister, who was 2, and had just started pre-school and had her own struggles.
For a few months, I made an extra effort for both girls to get Special Time, but those sessions would try my patience. Instead, Playlistening seemed to work best as a way to let off all of our stresses together. Playlistening gives kids a good opportunity to giggle and relieve tension, and I thought that wrestling time and pillow fights would give them an outlet to release their school stresses through physical resistance.
Play Stresses Away
Each daughter took 5-minute turns fighting or wrestling with me on the bed in my room. The other watched from the sidelines. She played referee and kept time while her sister was ‘in the ring' with me. Each daughter relished this time. I could see their eyes light up with mischievousness as they came up with ways to “overpower” me.
Their favorite time was when I played the bumbling villain. They giggled with delight when I was clumsy. I'd try and catch them but ‘fell' and missed them and they would escape from me every time. I let them push me over and outsmart me too. I could feel their glint of confidence getting stronger with each push and shove. Unlike when they were in school, the play sessions finally put them in control and gave them power. For once, the grown up was playing the fool and making all the mistakes.
The Let Go
Although I started our wrestling matches to help my 5-year-old with her tensions, my 2-year-old savored every minute and asked for fight sessions everyday. These fun playtimes soon became a part of our after school routine. Both kids wanted to wrestle as soon as they arrived home!
After the games, my 5-year-old was less domineering and played well with her younger sister. I found her more open to different food choices at lunch and dinner too.
Gradually the tensions surrounding school dissipated and we'd wrestle just a few times a week.
But for months after, it was still their favorite way to play with mom and dad.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
- Read about how to make the most of special time here
- Find out how to raise happier siblings in our guide to sibling rivalry
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Andrea McCracken is a candidate in the Hand in Hand Instructor Certification program.