I’m frightened already!
- Kimberly Allison, Mom and Challenge Participant
At Halloween, our kids have the opportunity to select the identity they want to inhabit for one special night. Perhaps they choose to face their fears head on by becoming their own worst nightmare. Others will choose to dress as characters they admire and want to emulate. A costume may make a young child feel stronger, bigger and smarter than she ever could imagine being on her own. In this spirit of trying on other identities, taking another’s perspective, I challenged three families including my own to switch roles during a typical dinner leading up to the holiday. We each had a different style of approaching it with our families. But parents and children alike laughed and learned about themselves through the experience.
The Challenge: You and your children will trade places – or more specifically roles – and act as the other for one family activity.
Each of the individuals – children and parents – dressed the part by selecting accessories to identify the role they were playing. My son, E (7 years old), put on a bright red beaded necklace and bracelet and wore my signature black headband while I propped a Darth Vader mask atop my head. Samantha (6 years old) was excited to put on her Mom’s flats, scarf and diamond ring while Mom Kimberly wore colorful plastic jewels and big flower hair clips. Dad Anthony happily went barefoot while son James (8 years old) wore a beret, a collared shirt, tie and a pedometer. Are you formulating a vivid picture?
Next all participants acted and spoke like the person they were portraying. “Oh that was such a long ball!” said Reese (4) dramatically as he came in the door acting as Mommy Sharon would home from yet another soiree. Of course, Mom Sharon volunteers regularly at school and community events putting in long hours of hard work but the four year old perception is that she is exhausted from extensive partying. “I hate pot roast! I won’t eat it. I want something else!” whined Dad Anthony at the dinner table. E acting as me said, “Oh sweetheart! (in his highest voice) Are you hurt?” rushing to my side. After dinner, “Kid” Sharon and “Kid” Anthony incited a battle over who could play with coveted Lego pieces. Each actor brought their own unique perspectives to the role and played it to the hilt.
So what did we learn from this game that we all squeezed into our already busy schedules? Samantha (6) said, “I liked being able to get up whenever I wanted to and it was fun to tell you what to do.” Mom Kimberly reflected “I could clearly play out the reversal in my mind, and knew that if I were at the receiving end of my comments during dinner, I would feel like I was always being watched for manners and how I was eating.” Daddy Jason said “What was supposed to be a fun game was actually more challenging than I expected.” As for me, I learned how uncomfortable and tough it is to really try and put yourself in another’s place and perspective. It’s hard work. It requires actively thinking about the other person, their beliefs, their daily habits and how they would authentically look and sound. There’s immediate accountability too since the person you are attempting to imitate is watching you. After the game, I noticed I was thinking frequently about what Daddy Jason might say in a particular situation or how E might react. Just this one activity has heightened my own awareness of my family members’ outlooks.
James (8) though summed it up for all of us by saying, “Okay, let’s switch back. I think I’ve learned everything I need to know from this exercise. It’s a lot of fun and also really tiring!” Exactly! Despite the hard work, I did feel stronger, bigger and smarter – emotionally – when I played the role of my son. Greater empathy is a compelling reason for our family to play this game again.
Take the Trading Places Challenge with your family! Try it out in the month of November in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday and enhance your sense of gratefulness for each other and for being you! Send in your experiences along with a family photo by Friday, November 14th and I’ll share them here along with an illustration of your family!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
* I would like to sincerely thank the Allison and Perez families and my own family too for participating in this social experiment. They are dear friends of ours and have contributed so much to our perspectives and lives. Thank you for playing along, sharing in the dialogue and for all you do as Confident Parents raising Confident Kids! Sharon Perez and Kimberly Allison have their own blog entitled Table 365 and significantly contribute to families’ lives through inspiration and ideas for healthy meals, fast and easy. Check out their blog at http://www.table365.com.
** Children’s names were changed.
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