While my family was living in Galveston, TX last year, we discovered a pretty nice little cafe named “Board Game Island“. The food was pretty good, but that isn’t why our kids loved the place. They served alcohol and coffee, but that isn’t why we liked it. We loved this place because it provided an opportunity for our family to spend time together playing games. We could have eaten at restaurants serving great seafood, places with better views (this one is on a side street near The Strand), but our kids preferred to go here. When we visited Galveston for spring break a few weeks ago, we once again spent time at Board Game Island, twice in one week.
There is something about interacting with members of your family or friends playing games that produces stronger bonds. Much like eating family meals together, playing games with each other forms stronger relationships because you are giving precious time to someone else just to be with them and enjoy their company. In the midst of playing the game, you visit and find out what is going on in their lives. There is also an opportunity to get to know their personality, how they strategize and approach problem solving and how they deal with winning or losing a game.
Often our families are merely a group of individuals who happen to live in the same house. People who rarely interact with each other in meaningful ways, perhaps just saying hi or bye as they come or go. I know this is not an accurate description of every family, but it has been true in our family at times in our 25 years of marriage. This unhealthy pattern can develop very quickly and before you know it, you are living it. It only takes a few poor decisions about involvements in school or sports activities or an unexpected complication in life (change in employment, health issues, trauma) to cause your family members to be too busy to spend time with each other in a meaningful way. While it may be difficult to reverse this trend, it is not impossible and the first step is to recognize it and decide to take concrete steps towards changing the environment in your home.
Setting the Right Environment for Family Time
Family time doesn’t just happen, in fact in our experience, the opposite is true. If you don’t work to create family time, you won’t have it. As parents, we all want to have strong relationships with our children, both young and old, and the pain is very real when those relationships are unhealthy. While we can’t sit our kids down and force them to be with us and have fun, we can organize our days, weeks and months such that they are not so busy. We can choose to not participate in sports activities which occur during family meal time, and strive to limit our family activities such that there are moments during the week when we don’t have anything on our schedule. It is in these blank spaces in our family calendar that we can bring out the games and invite our children to play with us.
I’m in, Now how do we do it?
- Simplify your schedule, don’t have a full schedule, be willing to sacrifice even good activities to clear you calendar to create downtime during the week or weekend. If you need more motivation, read my article on being too B.U.S.Y.
- Pick some easy to learn games at first:
- Start playing! Don’t force the kids to play, perhaps find one of your children who has an interest (younger ones are more likely to agree).
- Have fun, it is not about winning (this is for the Dads out there), it is about building relationships between family members. But don’t be a pushover either, your kids will know that you are letting them win.
Time is of the Essence
As any grandparent will tell you, your kids are only young once and the time passes by so quickly and before you know it, they are out of the house and beginning their own lives apart from your family. The song by Harry Chapin, The Cat’s in the Cradle describes an all too common situation in our culture. It is possible to develop strong healthy relationships with your children, and playing games with them is an excellent way that works well for many families, if it doesn’t work for yours, share what does work for you in the comments section.