Families that Play together, Stay Together!

Unwinding Well

Are you surprised at this title? Were you expecting something else like, the family that prays together stays together? That is also true. However, the notion that PLAY together is good for family harmony is rare. It came as a shock to me to learn that table games at home can be such a healthy past time. I did not grow up with a family that played Old Maid, Rummy, Monopoly, or Scrabble. My wife did and she brought me into her world as a reluctant player. I wonder if my hesitancy to play table games came from the fact that I wanted to win so badly and knowing it is not possible to control the cards you get.

Now I see that having to play the cards we are dealt is critical to developing maturity.

Think of all the strengths we can develop in a table game. They teach kids how to take turns, abide by the rules, look each other in the eye and talk, do math, keep score, and have fun together in the family. Board games have a positive effect on how the brain develops. In fact, research indicates that people have dramatic expanding brain cells as a result of such brain usage.

It can teach us to win without flaunting and lose with the ability to get back into the next game and learn from our losses. Resiliency comes from a lifetime of losing and bouncing back to try to win at the next opportunity. It is easy to blame a boss when we adults’ fail. By learning to take responsibility for our behavior in games as a child, offering lame excuses in adulthood can be minimized. We also learn from our mistakes in games and show improvement from game to game. Counselors often ask, “What have you learned from messing up?” We can all improve our game!

When kids get agitated or sad by a move not going their way or by another family member acting out, it gives parents an opportunity to model patience and self-control without the usual pressures from the outside world. It is harder to keep our composure and sense of balance when surrounded by cheering and jeering fans. A family can offer safety and grace to each other that is often missing in public events.

That brings up the topic of mercy and grace for each of us when we mess up. Families that play together can stay together when we have peace and forgiveness. When competition is fierce, tempers can flare and people want to attack each other not attend to one another. We have an opportunity to learn from our failures. It is not easy to admit our interpersonal failures and take responsibility for being rude. It is even more challenging to ask children, siblings, or grandchildren for forgiveness. But nothing builds a solid, deeply caring family more than practicing reconciliation. Parents and grandparents are also challenged to allow the kids to learn from their mistakes. It is also difficult for us to refrain from interfering too much in the kid’s conflicts and allow them to resolve their own differences. It is the best way for them to learn emotional self-control.

Beginning a new family habit like Family Game Time can help build resiliency.  Start with quick, easy games and keep basic interpersonal skills in the mind.