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To Play or Not to Play?

Hands up – how many of you have been asked to play hide and seek, or have a tea party for the millionth time? Playing the same games over and over can be tedious as a parent especially while trying to balance working, maintaining our homes and our sanity. Parenting is no easy task these days and can lead to us spending less time enjoying our children, but did you ever consider YOUR benefits when playing with your kids? 

We all know there are lots of benefits for our kids when we play with them, from boosting their self-esteem to improving emotional regulation. But no one really talks about how beneficial play is for parents. One of the biggest benefits is oxytocin, a hormone that is released in our bodies when we engage with our children and it:

  1. Reduces our blood pressure 
  2. Decreases our heart rate
  3. Reduces cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress hormone)
  4. Increases pain threshold (so when your child jumps on your back, it will hurt less)
  5. Has an anxiolytic-like effect (reduces anxiety, increases calmness and relaxation)
  6. Promotes healing (so when you child jumps on your back, you will heal faster)

Another lifelong benefit when we play with our kids is strengthening our relationship with them. Children feel loved and supported when they know that the most important person in their world plays with them. Play is commonly used in therapy as it allows children to open up and share about problems they have a hard time communicating.  This is translated into less emotional outburst and less stress in the family.

So the next time your child wants another round of hide and seek, remember it’s as good for you as it is for them!

Becky Morrison is a Nurse Practitioner based out of Calgary who has specialized in mental health for over a decade. She is finally, after years of infertility, a mother of two busy little boys, and doting fur mom of her gentle giant, Stella. She is, and always will be, a strong advocate for mental wellness at all ages.


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