Improve Communication for Adults and Children with Games

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Guest Blogger, Jennifer Cantis

The odds are pretty high that playtime was your favorite part of the day when you were a kid. Playing organized sports, board games with family members, or just being let outside to entertain yourself with friends always seemed to be the best part of the day.

As we grew up, too many of us decided the time for play was over, and it was instead time to focus only on more serious endeavors. Thanks to the findings of recent research, we can confidently say it is time to adjust how we think about playtime. For many of us, it’s also time to start scheduling a playdate with the family.

Play Supports Childhood Development

The notion that playtime assumed a dominant role in helping to form a child’s personality, academic potential, and sense of citizenship is far from a new concept. Researchers and child psychiatrists have invested decades in studying and understanding how children who participate in games compared to children who are denied this opportunity

Playtime reduces stress in children while boosting the productivity and focus of children who are participating in academic events. It even makes them more responsible citizens by enforcing adherence to rules, encouraging respect for personal boundaries, and facilitating communication.

Adults and Special Needs Children and Games

Adults who played similar games to the ones played by children reported lower stress and better focus shortly after playtime, and they were more productive. This science backs up what so many large companies already know and rely on when designing their offices.

Play also carries with it the added advantage of boosting memory and focus for older adults and children who have ADHD. Play can also heighten communication skills for certain children with Autism. The message is clear. If you are looking to heighten the personal productivity of your child, build family bonds, and boost your child’s communication skills, the best thing you can do is to play a game.

What Makes a Great Game?

A great family game is one that helps open communication across generations. Now that the stage is set, you need to work to build an environment where your child is comfortable communicating with you. Give your child a sense of safety and empowerment by letting them pick the game and explain the rules of the game to you.

One of the biggest challenges in getting a child to speak about their problems can be overcome by getting them to talk about something they feel they have control and authority over. When they are explaining the rules of the game, they will be put at ease, which makes them more likely to confide in you.

Finally, suggest games that promote the outcome you want. Playing Simon Says could be a fun way to help your child read physical cues, but if you’re trying to encourage open verbal communication, it is likely a poor game choice. Picking a game that emphasizes physicality or verbal responses matters and will dictate what kind of communication skills are honed by the game. 

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Games That Improve Communication for Adults and Children

Classic Bean Bag Toss

Classic bean bag toss is a fun summer game that’s also called cornhole. The game is simple enough to play and provides an excellent opportunity for open communication and face-to-face interaction. Whether you’re looking to pull distant relatives together during a summer barbeque or trying to introduce some physical activity into your elderly parent’s life, cornhole is a great game to play to build the paths of communication.

What’s so great about it? First, it requires some physical activity but is far from taxing. Adults and children of all ages can fully participate in the game. It’s easy to spend time talking and acting silly with loved ones when playing cornhole. Finally, it’s a great conversation starter. You can start with some good-natured banter to keep it lively.

Finish the Story

Want to play a fun game that doesn’t require any toys or equipment? Cut photographs out of magazines and put them into a bag. Take turns with your child pulling out pictures from the bag. Whoever pulls the story out of the bag must start the story. Once the story is halfway done, it’s up to the other person to finish it! This is a great game to play with younger kids because you can focus on pictures that show people’s facial expression to build their ability to read emotional responses.

Emotional Charades

Emotional charades is a great game to play if your child is suffering from communication or emotional challenges! Let your child start out as the leader. They must act out an emotion, and it is your job to guess how they are acting. If you’re right, it’s your turn to be the leader and act out an emotion. This is an engaging game because there is no talking so the focus is on developing emotional intelligence and your child’s ability to react appropriately to other people’s emotions.

Feed Me Pie

If you’re okay getting a bit messy, Feed Me Pie is a ton of fun! Make a whipped cream pie and take turns with the other person giving detailed instructions on how to feed you pie while they are blindfolded. What’s so great about this game? It proves that details matter, and it encourages active listening by the blindfolded person.

Final Thoughts

Playtime is a critically important part of a child’s development, and, as we learn more about how it promotes healthy and productive lives for adults, it becomes clear that it also keeps adults well adjusted.

Games not only are a great way to have fun, but they also reward adherence to boundaries, clear communication, and disconnecting from the digital distractions. So, go ahead and book a playdate with your child, colleague or friend to feel refreshed and renewed.

Protecting Your Teen from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a hot topic right now. I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to gather some information about how to communicate and protect our kids from it. I am delighted to introduce Amy Williams a parent of two teens and a former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health.

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Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become nearly impossible to escape for many teens. What makes this a significantly different problem from regular bullying is that cyberbullying follows teens wherever they take their laptops or smartphones. However, as with many problems, staying informed is one of the best ways to start taking action against it.

Two Big Factors

  • Boys especially like hiding the things they’re doing online. However, in most cases, they don’t actually need to hide their activities. Nobody really likes being snooped on, but the teenage obsession with hiding things feels a lot like paranoia.
  • Bullying is much more common online than it may seem. Kids generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to seeing stuff they don’t like.
  • “Empowered” kids, who have already figured out how to manipulate the technology they’re using and configure it to block messages from people they don’t like. A few have even gone as far as reporting bullies (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to do much on most social media sites), but their response to bullying is more-or-less laughing at it.
  • The other group of kids tend to stress out about the messages they see – they’re still vulnerable to hurtful messages, and oftentimes have trouble learning how to laugh off online threats and insults.

Now, the really weird part is how influenced these behaviors are by how the kids view technology. I’m not sure how true this is for everyone, but kids who like technology more seem to be less fazed by cyberbullying than kids who see technology as a problem – and yes, those types of kids exist too.

Preventative Action

A good first step to take in preventing cyberbullying is figuring out what type of responses your kids are having if you really want to help them get past it. Here are a few good options for parents:

  1. Monitoring Apps. This is totally snooping, but let’s face it, we snoop on their activities anyway until they show they’re mature enough to be independent or creative enough to get around us. If we’re going to keep tabs on them, then we might as well be doing it right.
  2. Family Discussions. Sometimes all you need to do is ask your child what they’d do if they saw a message they didn’t like – and it’s even better if you ask them to show you what they’d do. If they do well, give the little guy (or girl) some praise – hugs are a great choice.
  3. Watching Them. If your kid suddenly puts their phone down, looking rather upset, then there’s a pretty good chance they were just bullied somehow. Either that or someone spread a video you’ll wish you could watch out of your mind. Talk about it, but don’t intrude too far.

What do you think? Is there anything special you’re doing to help your children deal with cyberbullying? See the infographic below for more information.

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Author_Amy Williams

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

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