Stress Less Parenting

Bringing the joy back to parenting your children.

Separation Anxiety and Violent Play

Even children who parted easily at preschool sometimes turn into wailing “cling-ons” come the first days of kindergarten. Anxiety over the unknown is at the root of it. Will I make friends? Is learning to read going to be hard? Will I find the bus on time? Do I have to talk in class?

Most schools offer a time to tour the classroom and meet the teacher before the first day. Do a dry run. Show your child where he’ll be dropped off and how to get to his classroom.

As fears surface, talk them out. The more specific he can be about what’s bothering him, the better you’ll be able to strategize solutions.

Most important, don’t minimize your child’s fears. “You’ll meet new friends” isn’t reassuring to a scared 5-year-old. Talk instead about how to approach new playmates. Role-play what he might say to start up a game.

In times of upheaval, it’s also important for kids to have structure. Keep things as sane as possible at home with before- and after-school schedules.

Many parents grapple with the question of whether to let their children play with toy guns or engage in other violent play. It’s an individual choice, of course, and experts say that at age 5, a child’s interest in violent play is less a reflection of our violent culture than a common, healthy developmental phase.

Gunplay is a form of imaginative play that allows children to feel like they are exerting control over their world (vanquishing “bad guys,” for example). There’s no evidence linking toy guns to future acts of violence. The phase usually passes within a few years as the child moves on to other interests.

Many parents ban toy guns only to find their kids creating weaponry out of a sandwich, a stick, or the state of Florida in a 50-state puzzle.

So the way we handle it here in our house is we avoid buying realistic weaponry, but also don’t try to stop violent play.

Violent play is an opportunity to ask non-shaming, open-ended questions about why he or she likes such games, and to play along and find subtle ways to talk about your values and nonviolence. Kids learn through their play. What they learn is (at least partially) up to is parents.

So even though we allow no toy weapons, my daughter and her friends are creative and “kill” plenty of “monsters” and “bad guys” – as long as they are not pointing their homemade cannons at any people or pets.

Leave a comment »