There are times when a child’s preference for one parent over the other suggests more about underlying feelings of upset they are experiencing than anything genuinely true about their relationship with that parent.
I’ve been having a few of those moments lately. My husband is a teacher, and since the long holiday has started my daughter has been spending more time with him and less with me as I embark on a new writing project. Last week I was a bit busy and preoccupied, so even when I was physically there, I wasn’t exactly present.
I could tell my daughter was feeling disconnected from me, because she kept saying that she wanted to play with daddy, or only daddy could play certain games with her. After a family day at the swimming pool we got on the train, and she said she wanted to sit with daddy. I sensed that this preference had something to do with those feelings of disconnection from me, so I decided to turn it into a fun game.
I started saying in an exaggerated dramatic voice, ”oh no! Don’t sit on the boys side, you are meant to be on the girls side.” Then I would playfully pull her onto my side. She would then escape, and laugh as I jokingly exclaimed how terrible it was that she was on the ‘boys’ side.’ I pulled her back and I also made a ‘door’ with my hands, to block her from going to the other side. I would put up a bit of resistance, and then let her win and escape. After fun and giggles together we were feeling much more connected.
If your child is experiencing strong feelings of preference for one parent over the other you might like to play a game like this. Perhaps have both parents sit on opposite sides of the living room. Then tell your child that you want them to stay on your side, and that you really hope that they don’t run over to the other side. Saying this in a playful tone will probably be just the invitation your child needs to run over to the other side, and you can then try and get them back. You can pull them gently in a playful way, so they get that it’s a game. It’s important not to physically overpower your child. The aim is for your child to ‘win,’ to be in the most powerful role, so always let them escape.
These sorts of games fill our child’s need for connection in all sorts of ways. By feeling their own strength and power, they get to release feelings of upset that get in the way of being closely connected to us. By laughing and playing, we get to deepen our bond.
It’s not always easy staying connected in our busy lives where we need to work, and spend time alone to meet our own needs as well, but the Hand in Hand Parenting tools are always there to heal those major and minor disconnections we all experience from time to time.
Need more help in dealing with disconnection with your child? Check out my article Healing Broken Connections. Sometimes separation anxiety can be behind your child’s preference for one parent over another. These playful ways to heal separation anxiety may be helpful. Hand in Hand Parenting also has an online self study course, Helping Your Child WIth Separation Anxiety
Would you like a giggle parenting solution for your family challenge? Leave me a comment or contact me via facebook.