Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
Family Game Night. It’s on! We all love to spend quality family time with our children – whether they are younger or older or anything in between. Game night is a fun way to bond, be silly, and come out of the ho-hum of the daily routine. But did you know it is also a great opportunity to take everyday games and weave in social and emotional lessons for your kids?
I find my kids are more responsive to an indirect teaching and modeling. Using board games is a fun way to incorporate this!As you may know already, I am a mom of 4. My goal right now is to focus on challenging my kids’ negative thoughts and bringing out more of the positive ones. This is an ongoing battle that impacts their self-esteem and increases their anxiety.
Starting young, I play Sunny and Stormy Daysby Peaceable Kingdom. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary. This game encourages “sharing from the heart” to build communication. I really like that we all have parts of our day that can be “sunny” and parts that are “stormy”. I use this to help my kids fine the good part of the days because even if it was a bad day, there is always a piece of it that was ok or even great. It’s very easy for our children to have a difficult moment and generalize it to the entire day. That’s what the stormy moment of this day emphasizes – it doesn’t have to define our child’s whole day.
For a spin on the Classic game of Chutes and Ladders, I use this to help teach frustration tolerance and dealing with set backs. Model for your kids by verbalizing the feelings “oh no... down the slide I go”. Model positive thinking after like “it’s ok, I’ll try to find a ladder and catch up.” Simple externalizations of your own feelings and thoughts builds an internal dialogue for the future in your children.
Children need to experience all ranges of emotions and failures .... sometimes that chute really sets us back. This is a great way to teach emotional regulation and focus on having fun together. Winning is not always going to happen. This game of chance really tests everyone’s ability to deal with outside influences that are out of our control
Last, I have the Mad Dragon game (well, I am a therapist after all!). This card game is more directive on teaching anger management triggers and strategies. It allows for a back and forth discussion as well as self-reflection. It’s a game that’s played like Uno, but with the numbers, there are also questions. This is a great tool to talk about which situations or outcomes push your child’s anger buttons. Best of all, you are doing this at a time when your child is calm and regulated, so that back and forth can be really enlightening for you and your child. He may have not really talked about how losing a game can make him really angry. But now that he’s said that out loud, he knows… and so do you! My kids are not immune to experiencing and struggling with emotional regulation either. So I use this as a fun way to learn a little more about them and also help them build skills for the future.
All these games are from my private family collection and not part of any endorsement. I wanted to share a few games that I thought you could can find (if you don't have them already) and play with your kids that encourage discussion as well as fun. Here’s to an awesome family game night!
Photo from: Pexels
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles