An important tool to help you connect with your child.
Here is an activity that I encourage parents to do on a regular basis, preferably every day. If you feel that life is moving from one thing to the next, with little time to sit back and just enjoy your child's presence this might just be the thing for you.
Child Centered Activity (CCA)
Child-Centered Activity is a family activity that develop parents’ observational skills and ability to tolerate difficult feelings, in connection with their child’s play. It was developed by Georgia de Gangi (2000) as an experiential, process-oriented model for improving the emotional and regulatory capacities of a child.
The goals of CCA include:
- Increasing the parents’ capacity to observe and reflect upon the meaning of the child’s communications;
- Facilitating the child’s development of self-directed activity and problem solving and a joyful, secure attachment to the parent;
- Increasing parents’ sensitive and attuned responses to their child’s needs, building a sense of competence and confidence in their experience as a facilitator, rather than director, of their child’s activity.
Child-Centered Activity Guidelines (adapted from deGangi, 2000)
1. Set aside an uninterrupted 20 minutes a day to sit with your child in a non-prohibitive play area, with toys that allow your child to explore and which are open-ended in nature.
2. The 20 minute time structure is important for both you and your child; it is manageable for parents, and helps the child feel more contained as parents practice effective boundary setting.
3. The child is given the lead; as a parent you participate in play in a non-directive way, observing, listening and reflecting on what the child might be trying to show them. Feel free to respond to the play, but do not take over. This is not a teaching time.
4. Avoid praising or setting limits during the play with the exception of hurting themselves or the parent, or destroying objects or toys. There are no right, wrong, or proper ways to play with toys.
5. Notice and reflect on your own experience in parallel with your child’s. Being asked to sit and notice, rather than engage in an activity may stimulate feelings; furthermore, powerful feelings evoked by the child are important feelings for parents to take not of.
6. Make simple, observational comments about what you are seeing which do not direct the play, for example ‘you lined all the cars up in a row and then raced them over to the wall.’ You can also ask simple questions about what is happening, and maybe bridge play if your child moves from one play topic to another without a sense of completion, eg. ‘what happened to the dinosaur? I thought he was hungry.’
7. Pay attention to the feelings elicited in the child when the play time comes to an end. Simple narrative statements that let your child know that they can see how they are feeling (disappointed, upset), but that it is time to stop and do something else, can help the child feel understood. Narrate to your child what will happen next, e.g. ‘after we clean up, we will have a snack.’