In the depths of a Christmas box, the kids found a game – Holiday Charades. They had no idea how to play, so Russ explained it and before we knew it, we had a rousing game of charades going. The room filled with laughter and we were all (or almost all) having a great time.
When the kids went to bed, we were still smiling and my heart felt lighter. While being a nurturing mom comes fairly naturally to me, being playful isn’t quite so easy. I’m pretty sure I used to be better at it, but with so many challenges and so many needs, I tend to hunker down, focus on what needs to be accomplished, and plow through each day.
The final chapter of The Whole-Brain Child is “The Me-We Connection: Integrating Self and Other”. It focuses on developing insight and empathy, which together create what the authors call mindsight. The chapter is packed with good things, but I was particularly delighted – and challenged – when I read “Whole-Brain Strategy #11 Increase the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other”. We’ve all heard that there is value in playing with our kids, but this is neuroscience, folks, so I was paying close attention.
Listen to this:
With every fun, enjoyable experience you give your children while they are with the family, you provide them with positive reinforcement about what it means to be in a loving relationship with others. One reason has to do with a chemical in your brain called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which means that it enables communication between brain cells. Your brain cells receive what some people call “dopamine squirts” when something pleasurable happens to you, and it motivates you to want to do it again…
…We can help produce dopamine squirts that reinforce positive and healthy desires, like enjoying family relationships. Dopamine is the chemical of reward – and play and fun are rewarding in our lives.
[Play] strengthens the bonds between you and teaches your kids that relationships are affirming, rewarding, and fulfilling. p. 132
When we play with our children and have fun with them, we are laying a foundation for future relationships and healthy attachments. I find that very motivating; it’s not just about having fun in the moment, it’s about creating a desire for healthy relationships in the future and even preparing them to be good parents to our grandchildren. That’s a pretty big payoff for a relatively small investment.
And hear this:
Recent studies have found that the best predictor of good sibling relationships later in life is how much fun the kids have together when they are young. The rate of conflict can even be high, as long as there’s plenty of fun to balance it out. The real danger comes when the siblings just ignore each other. There may be less tension to deal with, but that’s also a recipe for a cold and distant relationship as adults. p. 133
I know that many of us are thinking that maybe this doesn’t quite apply to our families, where trauma and drama consume so much of our time and energy. But I want to encourage us all to find tiny pockets of fun in our days with our children. Let’s pray that it reaps a harvest of healing and preparation for future relationships.
Book group friends, I will post a couple of questions for our last chapter later today. I hope you have a moment to stop by and leave a comment. Thank you all for reading this book with me – for making me slow down, underline and truly take it in.
Question: How do you have fun with your children?
Encourage one another,