When kids are little, they actually get to know each other while playing independently in the same space. This is often referred to as parallel play. As they get older, a similar phenomenon happens in families – everyone is doing their own thing, but they are doing it in the same house. Family members get accustomed to (or, conversely, annoyed by) each other’s rhythms and routines. You might say that family members are constantly in “parallel play” with each other.
As a parent, you can open up communication in a non-threatening way by creating opportunities for “parallel play.” Think about an activity that you can do “with” your child, one that is not competitive and does not require your instruction. Maybe it’s something that you enjoy doing, a hobby or art, that doesn’t require all of your focus — knitting, or scrapbooking, or painting.
Set yourself up in a public space in the house, and give it a little time. After a while, invite your child to join you, if s/he hasn’t already, either in your activity or something else of interest. Try HARD not to correct, or even to make suggestions unless your child asks. Encourage each other creatively, allow for small talk, and then see what conversation flows from there. Sometimes, the best conversations happen when you’re not looking each other in the face, and have another focus – especially with complex kids. It takes the pressure off!
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