Parents spend so much time working, carpooling, cleaning and caring, that parent playtime is often overlooked. This is detrimental to individual and marital health. Parents’ lives become consumed and defined by their workload with little energy left over for themselves or their relationship.
The healthiest couples I see in my office take time to play together. Play is a diversion, a recreation or an amusement. Couples first come together because they wanted to be with the other person more than anything else. It was fun! That feeling fades as the couple is pulled into parent roles and responsibilities. Time together is the essence of a relationship. Parent play time revives that sense of fun and replenishes positive energy.
Play time can be high energy or low. Children play with a puzzle and play hide and seek. Parents can play quietly together or get physical. They can stay inside or go out and play. The point is to be together, focused on being with each other, and to be recharged.
Just as there are rules on the play ground, there are rules for parent play time. No talking about problems. No discussing finances, in-laws or children. No zoning out in front of the TV, playing games on the phone or getting sucked into the computer. A play time guideline for couples is one hour a day, one night a week, one weekend a month and one week a year. With children, this is very hard to do, but loneliness, depression, and divorce are even harder.
The most common one hour time block for parents to play is after the children go to bed. The challenge is first getting the kids to bed- in their own room. Then parents must muster enough energy to devote to play time. At the end of the day many adults simply want to face plant in the bed or numb out in front of the TV. Do not do this! Dig deep and spend time together.
Date night need not be expensive; it may be a simple stroll down Duke of Gloucester street or drive to Yorktown beach to watch the sunset. A babysitting co-op is a great way to cut child care costs. Start a group, each member gets three tokens. Tokens are redeemed for babysitting. The tokes prevent one person from taking advantage of others and can be saved up!
One weekend a month, dedicated to parent play time can be a luxury. Cost and schedule are obstacles. However, if you are blessed enough to have grandparents or others you trust with your kids, a weekend getaway can reset and reframe your life. You will come back renewed and refreshed to address your responsibilities.
I have seen a weeklong trip do more for a marriage than two months of marital therapy. Some people just need time to play. If this is your spouse, make the investment! You will enjoy not only the vacation itself, but the additional benefits of a happier self and spouse. Getting out of your environment and parent roles for more an extended period of time allows you to truly release.
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About Amanda Deverich, LMFT, NCC Marriage & Family Therapist and Professional Counselor 757-903-2406
Amanda draws upon formal counseling theory and education, on the job training and personal life experience. She is skilled in structural family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Christian counseling. After earning her graduate degree from The College of William & Mary, she started using the same techniques that she teaches to parents in her own home. These methods change lives. These methods WORK!