When Playtime Feels Like Work.
Being a parent, to any child, with any type of abilities, can be both the most rewarding and most exhausting job you might ever have. On their blog featured on PsychologyToday.com, What to Say Next, Sarah and Larry Nannery, both stressed and loving parents, write about the difficulties of over-exerting during playtime with an autistic child. In their article, "Autistic Parents: Is Playtime With the Kids Wearing You Out?" the Nannerys write about the struggles of trying to play with a child who craves attention and also has a wild imagination. The struggle is often that the make-believe scenarios that any child can make up on the fly are ones that often tire parents out and are hard to keep up with, making playtime less enjoyable for both parties. The article provides five tips to mastering playtime without entirely depleting your energy bank. The first is to use repetition in your playtime responses. If there is one reaction or response that elicits laughter or enjoyment from your child, then use that appropriately throughout the imaginative play and avoid draining your energy. The next piece of advice given is to have a formula for your ideation play with your child. Something as simple as giving the main character a goal, ensuring that character crosses at least three obstacles along the way, and then they achieve that goal and a celebration ends the story should do the trick. With a simple formula such as this to use during play, you will be able to quickly interact in a simple, but effective way that will not completely drain you of your resources. It is also helpful to play to your strengths when interacting in playtime with your child; do something that appeals to your child, but that you can both excel at and enjoy. One of the easiest tricks in the book for playing with children is the use of song as entertainment, especially for younger children. A lot of songs now have built in games or motions to hold their attention for at least enough time for you to recharge your brain during playtime. The last piece of advice is to know your limits, whether that be to schedule some rest time before and/or after playtime or even to allow yourself enough grace to say "no" when your child asks you to play. You can place some restrictions on playtime and dictate which types of games you are willing to play at that time or set a limit on the interaction time and when that timer goes off, it's time for rest. Quality time with your child is important and playtime is one of the greatest ways to achieve that special bonding time, but if you have to risk your mental and physical strength to engage in play, then setting boundaries and limits is the best way to do so. These tips are great and easy ways to ensure you are taking care of yourself and avoiding burnout while still entertaining your child.