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Fantasy Play Works Like Magic!

Kids complain a lot. They whine. They whimper.


Imagine you're in the car with your child on your way home for lunch. Home is about 20 minutes away and your child starts to complain that she's hungry.


“We’re on our way home for lunch,” you say. You know there's plenty of food at home and your child will take a nap following lunch.


“But I’m so huuuuungry!” your child wails. You really don’t want to stop to get lunch because you feel it's a waste of money with all the food you have at home.


Plus, the time it takes to go out will delay or even prevent your child’s much needed nap. Your child’s gripes get louder and louder and you feel your anxiety rising.


What do you do?


Many parents in this situation, feeling either annoyed or guilt-ridden, give in to the child’s cries and stop for lunch at a restaurant. Others get angry and ignore the child or try to reason with her about the cost of lunch at a restaurant and the time it would consume.


Here’s another option:  Join with your child, then use fantasy.


Tell your child that you can imagine how hungry she must be and how difficult it is to wait, especially when she's SO hungry. Then, tell her you wish you could just wave a magic wand and POOF! There would be food right in her lap!


Ask her: “If I had a magic wand, what food would you want to appear?” You could pretend there was a special button she could press every time she wanted a snack in the car and it would magically materialize.


Don’t deny her fantasy with practicality. Let her dream big. Give her permission to let her imagination run wild.


If she chooses to fantasize about eating ice cream and cookies, don’t interrupt and say, “Oh, no…we don’t eat sweets for lunch.” That defeats the purpose.


The reason using fantasy works is that it allows her to have what she wants, in her mind, right now.


When she's feeling totally powerless, it empowers her. In her fantasy, she’s the one in control.


Most likely, by the time you’ve entertained her fantasy and giggled about it, you'll both be in a better mood and you might have even gotten home — just in time for lunch and a nap.


In what other situations can you acknowledge your child’s complaining with fantasy play? Leave a comment below and share your ideas!


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Hi, I’m Pam

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

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