Play – Part 3: Play to connect

Michael Walker, LPCBlog, FamilyLeave a Comment

Play - Part 3: Play to Connect

Note: I’ll be referencing specific play personalities throughout this post. If you would like a quick refresher on what each play personality is, please check out my post from last month.

A while back, I had the privilege of working with a family of 5. They had flown in from across the country for a family intensive. Among their chief concerns was a long history of unresolved interpersonal conflicts between members of the family. They were planets with concentric orbits that most often found themselves on opposite sides of the solar system. We started to unpack some of these conflicts in the office, but the real breakthrough came when we started experiential therapy.

I had the opportunity to work with them on some low ropes and team building initiatives. The family as a whole was fiercely competitive and they completed every challenge I threw at them with relative ease. As we processed their experience afterward, they acknowledged that they hadn’t felt this connected in quite a long time. They realized that when they worked together, they could accomplish just about anything. The momentum we built during these playful activities led to a great deal of success in the remainder of the intensive. They were able to work together and resolve any issue that was brought up.

As we were wrapping up our work together, dad and the kids seemed very lighthearted, but mom seemed deep in thought. I asked her what was in her mind and she shared her pleasure with the success we found this week, but also her concern about going back home and falling into old habits. She shared that she loves to see the rest of the family so well connected, but she often feels like an outsider to the rest of the group. “It has always been a challenge for us to find activities that everyone enjoys together,” she shared. The rest of the family agreed.

I walked them through the play personality assessment. Dad and the kids all saw themselves as explorers and competitors. Mom saw herself as a director and creator with a bit of explorer thrown in as well. When she saw that her top two were different from the rest of the family, she felt discouraged and afraid that this confirmed her identity as an outsider in her own family.

Since they had been so successful in solving problems together throughout the week, I issued them one final challenge: to come up with a family activity that they can do on a regular basis and includes all of their play personalities. They accepted the challenge with great excitement.

The rest of the family became really interested in mom’s creative side and how she finds the most joy through creativity. She shared that she loves to cook, try new foods and discover new recipes. Then the daughter suggested, “What if we had a family cooking competition?” The whole family seemed to embrace the idea. They pointed out that they had never done anything like that before, so that appeals to the explorer in all of them. They could work together to plan and organize it with mom taking the lead since she is the director. Dad and the kids will certainly embrace the competitive aspect of it, and mom gets to embrace her creative side through cooking.

By the end of this discussion, I could see that mom began to tear up a bit. She shared that it was so meaningful to feel intentionally included by the rest of the family. She was hopeful now that things could actually be improved when they returned home. Not only did they have some specific ways to connect as a family, but they also have a framework to continue to explore creative ways to connect with each other in the future.

For anyone reading this blog, I encourage you to think about how you might leverage your play personalities to enhance your relationships. Comment down below if this has sparked any new ideas for you or if you have any questions on how to mesh your play personalities with others in your life.

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