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Why Parent-Child Play is so Important
Tracy Kristoff

We all need to find joy in our relationships with our families. Laughter is good medicine. It heals our souls, our spirits, and can even help us manage a stressful situation. Just think about how you left the house this morning. Were you all yelling at each other or were you laughing with each other and sad to see the time end?
It will come to no surprise when I say that our children experience more depression and anxiety than any other generation in history. Children are over booked, over scheduled, over worked, and pressured by the demands of everyday life. When they do have "down-time", they often turn to video games and social networking sites as a way to relax. Sure, some video games are ok, but they often lack the imagination, creativity, and the personal connections that our souls need to thrive.
So, why is parent-child play so powerful? When parents play with their children, children learn emotional regulation, empathy, communication and critical thinking skills, safe boundaries and structure. As parents play with their children, a special bond begins to form between the parent and child that shape their relationship in the present moment and helps children develop empathy in peer relationships. During parent-child play, a special language begins to emerge as both parent and child begin to interpret body language and facial ques. Play is the language of children. When parents attempt to communicate with their child in their language they begin to understand each other more deeply. If you don't believe your child speaks a foreign language, just ask your five year-old to draw a picture. I bet you both come up with different interpretation as to what the picture is actually communicating. Better yet, ask one of your teenagers to read you one of the stories or poetry they are writing and listen without judgment.
Parent-child play can help children learn to regulate themselves emotionally, because play has the ability to excite and frustrate. Parents can set an example during play by helping the children settle down after noticing when their child is experiencing frustration. Simply checking with your child by saying, "I noticed you were feeling frustrated by the look on your face," helps the child connect their feeling to a bodily sensation. Parents can teach their child stress reduction after a particularly excitable game by spending a few minutes lying on the grass looking at the clouds, reading a book, or listening to music. Parent-child play can help children develop socially and increases their ability to communicate thoughts and feelings with their peers, family members, and other adults. They also learn critical thinking skills as they find creative ways to interact with their parents and elaborate on the rules. Lastly, during play, parents are able to set rules and regulations that create safety and structure. Let's take a pillow fight as an example of parent-child play. The parents can state that there is no hitting in the face, no aggressive play, and no name calling. The parents can ask the child to identify other rules to help keep the play safe. A safety word should be developed that allows the parent or child stop play at any time when feeling unsafe. This builds a sense of autonomy and control that can create safety in other relationships.
Play can be as simple as a pillow fight, rough and tumble play in the yard, or imagination games of fighting dragons. They can even involve board games or creating funny plays or stories for a family theater night. Let you imagination run wild with your parent-child play, and soon will begin to feel like a kid again yourself.      
  
Tracy Kristoff, BA, MFT, RPT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Registered Play Therapist who loves to the power of PLAY!!!

Our focus for this month is our Hearts for Families Grant. This grant helps family and couples dealing with family issues or individuals dealing with family issues. 
This grant would be funded if not for donors like you.
Educators Workshop

On March 2nd, the therapists from LCS will be leading several sessions applicable to school workers.  This will be held at Holy Cross Lutheran Academy (Upper Campus) in Sanford. 
For more information: admin@lcsfl.com.

Click HERE to sign up!
LCS in the Community
  • Dr. Armstrong led a two part congregational retreat on Healthy Congregations at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Smyrna Beach last month. Next month Dr. Armstrong will led a similar retreat for Lutheran Church of the Cross in St. Petersburg.
  • Megan Miessler  started peer supported "Lunch Bunch" groups at Holy Cross Lutheran Academy. These groups will focus on friendships and relationships with classmates. She also led a parent education class at Holy Cross and is leading a Coping Skills Group at Trinity Lutheran School Downtown Orlando.
  • Dr. Armstrong recently led a portion of a respite retreat for pastors and their wives affected by tornadoes in the midwest which was sponsored by the FL-GA District of the LCMS.  He also led a portion of the Interim Ministers Training Event of the FL-Bahamas Synod the of the ELCA.

  • Megan Miessler presented to Wheat Ridge Investors in January - Highlighting the grant LCS received from Wheat Ridge for the School Counseling Ministry
  • Sharon Darin and Megan Miessler are leading a social skills group at St. Luke's Lutheran School.   
  • At the end of this month, Dr. Armstrong will lead a workshop on Life Transitions for Epiphany Lutheran Church in Lake Worth, FL and in March he will lead a presentation on Ministry in Times of Transitions for the LCMS Missionary Orientation.
Recognition for Lutheran Counseling Services
On Saturday February 6 the ministry of LCS was recognized and  3 wonderful financial gifts were received at the First Franklin Financial Services 12th Annual Client Appreciation Event.  Dr. Armstrong was present to accept the contributions on behalf of those we serve in this ministry. He also made a presentation to the event sharing information about the ministry of LCS with those present. We are grateful for the generous contributions of First Franklin Financial Services, as we are grateful for all of our partners and donors who make our services possible.
Happy Valentines Day!

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39
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