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A Way to Wonder: Godly play for parents


Weaving Faith and Family... When You're Hanging on by a Thread: Reflections and Suggestions for Your Busy Family, by Eileen Marx. See it at

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The Treehouse: ideas for exploring the world around us with our children

Creative Parenting

by Sheila Somerlock Ruth

The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.
—Carl Gustav Jung

Parenting requires creativity. It's easy to get caught up in the mundane, day-to-day routine and forget how creative we must be as parents. Every day presents new challenges, and every day we must think of new solutions to those challenges. While there are many resources to help us--parenting books, magazines, web sites, and discussion groups--in the end it all comes down to resourcefulness and creativity. Every child is different, and every parent is different, so every solution must be different. Advice from experts and other parents can give us ideas and help us in the right direction, but we must adapt those ideas to our own situations. And every now and then, we come up with a flash of inspiration, a creative idea that is uniquely ours.

I had just such an inspiration recently. My 4-1/2 year old son refused to go to bed, insisting that there were monsters in his room. This is a kid who has loved spooky things for quite some time, and who "knows" monsters aren't real. But for some reason, suddenly the monsters became real, and they were scary! All my reassurances didn't help at all. Then I remembered reading that you should acknowledge a child's fears, instead of making light of them. So, I started trying to see it from his perspective. If the monsters are real, what could we do about them? The answer that popped into my head was, "Well of course, we have to scare them away."

I asked him where the monsters were, and he said, "Under the bed." I said, "Shhh, lets sneak up on them." I tiptoed to the bed and bent down to look under it. My son followed nervously, but he burst out laughing when I yelled at the monster at the top of my lungs: "Waaaaaaaah". After we had a good laugh together, we scared the monsters out of his closet and a few other places together. He enjoyed yelling and then laughing, and with the monsters banished, he went to sleep with no problems.

We all have the power to be creative. But it can be tough to be creative when the baby is crying, the kids are fighting, and our brains are fogged with lack of sleep. Here are a few tips to help you.

First of all, take a step back. Unless you are dealing with a situation which requires an immediate response, such as a child in a dangerous situation or hurting another child, take a minute to calm yourself. Tell your children you need to think. Then walk away for a minute, take some deep breaths, try to relax and clear your mind. Even better, put in a video tape for the kids and go take a bubble bath. I'm not advocating using the TV as a babysitter, but it won't hurt now and then, and the result will be a happier, more relaxed parent. It's much easier to think creatively when we are relaxed.

Once you are (somewhat) relaxed, you can start fermenting ideas. In order to do think creatively, you need to break out of standard modes of thinking. One way to do that is to look at the problem from a different perspective. Looking at an issue from your child's perspective can give you a lot of insight. To do this, you need to really try to see the world how they see it. Try to remember how you felt when you were a child, and try to think like a child. Thinking like a child with the experience of an adult can be a powerful combination. You can also play with other perspectives. How would Oprah Winfrey solve the problem? What would Big Bird do? Be as silly as you want; humor is another good tool for enhancing creativity.

All this sounds like it takes time, and it can. But it doesn't have to. You can spend days or hours coming up with new ideas, or one can pop out in a second. It all depends on the scope and urgency of the problem, and on your state of mind. The more you practice thinking creatively, the better you will get at it. And sometimes a crisis may force an innovative solution. Creative thinking guru Roger von Oech says that sometimes we need a "whack on the head" to jolt us out of our routine patterns of thinking. So the next time you find your child jumping on the sofa or refusing to go to bed, it might just be the whack on the head that you need.

No one can be creative all the time. Some days, the best response I can manage is, "Because I said so." But it is those creative moments, those flashes of inspiration, that define us as parents.

Sheila Somerlock Ruth was a full-time computer professional before motherhood inspired her to take a more creative approach to life and work. Today, she is a home-based web development specialist and co-owner of MyCinnamonToast.comô, a site developed in tandem with Edna Katherine French -- her mom. Both generations of women work together on the website and their related publications on Genealogy, Parenting and Reading Tips. To subscribe, visit them at

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Copyright © 2002 Barbara Laufersweiler
Last updated August 13, 2001


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