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Yes, And: learning resilience and collaboration at play time, by Aimee Sellers, LPCMH

Welcome to 2022. It’s been an odd and difficult few years. Many see the new year as a time to slow down, do a little introspection, and consider goals for the year to come. My children see it… decidedly differently. As a fresh 5-year-old and almost 3-year-old, they maintain momentum at all times. Arguing over toys, who gets to be which superhero, or how some game should be played. It is at these moments that I dig deep into my bag of tricks and produce the tactic I’d like to share with you today; “Yes, And…”
Ah, “Yes, And”, a classic technique in improve comedy and somehow a very helpful parenting tool. In “Yes, And”, the rules are simple. You can’t say no to any ideas, but you can add to them. For example: “Let’s be fast mermaids,” my daughter might say. “No! I’m a monster truck,” my son would contend. This is when I step in with guidance, “Let’s use ‘Yes, And’. We are fast mermaids, yes, AND we are fast because we drive monster trucks.” It then shifts between them, and their ideas change the game until we are happy with it.
Over time, the point of “Yes, And” is to create a space where one might not get their way, but they have a voice to help find a collaborative alternative. This takes some time for kids to pick up and parental modeling is integral in the initial inception. When children play, they are developing connection and communication skills. By creating a game out of creative brainstorming and validating ideas, we grow these skills in our children as well as ourselves. It is easy for kids and adults alike to feel rejected when their plan isn’t the group priority. With “Yes, And” kids learn resilience and adaptivity in the face of circumstances beyond their control.
Adults may also find they regularly need a few rounds of this game too. At times the world may change without warning, that doesn’t mean you have no say in how it looks going forward. It’s how we engage with the changes that matters and ultimately makes a difference to our own experience. “Yes” acknowledges and validates the circumstance, while “And” opens the creative door to a next step. “Yes, And” unsticks us from where we are, to a view to change the future.

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