Transitioning Using Playful Parenting
Helping Ellie Jo successfully transition to life in America is one of my top priorities right now . It is really easy to imagine that she will quickly adjust because she is, after all, an “American.” But I don’t think that will be the case. SHE doesn’t know she’s an American. She got tired of all the white people when we visited the States last summer!
I’d been looking around for resources, but most books and websites seemed geared toward school-aged children. Then I got my birthday package from Granna and Grandad Crocker and was introduced to Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen. The book isn’t about cultural transitions, but it is full of tools to help kids communicate through play. This quote from early on in the book jumped right out to me,
“…Besides the big traumas and little upsets, children also need to process the new information they receive every day. Just think how many billions of bits of data that is for a child. So much is new to them, and it all has to be sifted through and sorted out. Play is their favorite way to do this. Luckily, play is one of the best ways available to heal from those hurts and to process that new information.” (Playful Parenting, pg. 14)
The book is reminding me (and giving me some tools) to stay connected with Ellie Jo. It is easy for me to understand why everything is our house is gradually being packed up, but Ellie Jo needs me to notice when it is bothering her and have me explain where her toys are going. We spend lots of time playing in this big packing box (pictured above) so the other boxes don’t seem quite as scary. She needs me to spend time playing with her and talking through things.
We spend lots of time every day telling stories about events that have happened and will happen. One story today was, “Squanto. Lick. No! Go away. Off!” She told me that in the car after spending some time being babysat by a friend who owns a dog named Squanto. I tell her stories about America and how she will see Grammy and Poppa at the airport and see chickens at Grandpa’s house and see Jacob in Oregon. We notice when airplanes take off from the airport and talk about flying on an airplane.
Playful Parenting also makes some really good points about play unlocking a lot of childhood emotion. Ellie Jo will sometimes become overwhelmingly frustrated by a simple mishap during play time. If the book doesn’t open to just the right page or her baby doll doesn’t sit on the toilet just right she melts down into tears. I’m learning to let her cry over those small things and comfort her sincerely because they are, hopefully, allowing her to express frustrated emotions over this whole transition process. She doesn’t understand why Jacob doesn’t come home every night and she doesn’t know where half her toys are. She has big questions and doesn’t know how to ask them. So what else can she do but cry? We are teaching her how to say “Sad” when she doesn’t want to leave a friend’s house or when she feels left out of something in an attempt to help her identify her big feelings as they come.
I could go through the book chapter by chapter and talk about all of the ways it is giving me ideas for our move, but this is already much longer than a normal blog post. I would encourage any family facing a transition to read this book. For that matter, I’d encourage anyone who likes to play with kids to read this book! It is already helping me and we haven’t even stepped on the airplane yet.