One of my daughters LOVES to pretend, which I think is fantastic…most of the time. I love that she involves her sister in her games of school, gymnastics, and hospital, and that she is exercising her creativity and imagination. However, sometimes her pretend play causes problems in the reality of our daily life, and I’m looking for some suggestions on how to ease the frustration that we are currently experiencing. The scenario is usually this: It’s a Sunday morning, and my daughter has been playing “emergency room” with her little sister. She has improvised casts on her leg and arm, and a bandage tied around her head. I tell the girls that it’s time to get ready for church, and my daughter asks whether she can keep her casts on for church. (By the way, I think she is old enough and smart enough to know that the answer is going to be “no.”) When I tell her that she may not, but that she may resume her game after church, crying and stomping ensue. She is clearly very frustrated, says that she really does have a broken ankle, and is emphatic that she cannot go to church (or wherever we are going) because of her injuries.
What do you do in situations like these? Any suggestion that she is just pretending puts her over the edge, even when there is plenty of time for her to transition from play to reality, and it is difficult for the whole family. This situation also happens at bedtime – “no mom, I need to finish my math homework!” (she’s too young for homework) – and at other times of transition. If you have a similarly imaginative and dramatic child, I would love to hear your wisdom! How do you help your children to make the mental shift from pretend play to reality? Part of me wonders if it would help for me to enter her pretend play world for a few minutes before I am going to ask her to make a transition, so that I am helping her to make a change from within rather than imposing a change from without. What have you done that has worked?