Depression and anxiety are very isolating illnesses that often detach loved ones from each other and can pull families apart at the seams. James Nock writes about how playing games with your kids can help you reconnect…
Dads with depression or other mental health disorders may not have left home physically, but many find that they have distanced themselves mentally and emotionally from their children due to their illness. If this sounds familiar, one way to re-engage with your kids is through game playing, so why not wipe clean the dining table or just hoover the lounge floor, grab a board game and spend some quality with the kids.
It can be very hard to get motivated, but making time for this can help heal past damage by rebuilding bonds and trust with those you love. Games can bring huge smiles, and play can help distract you from negative thoughts and worries, enabling you to embrace quality time with the family, creating a shared experience with your kids.
There are games that are light on competitiveness and also games that are co-operative and get you and the kids working together to achieve mutual goals. By doing this you create common ground and forge new joint memories. It’s important to get away from the screen and come together. We spoke to award winning games designer Reiner Knizia about what games he would recommend for this purpose:
‘Table top games are wonderful to bring people together. When you play a game everyone is equal. You engage in a world that is away from our world. You can forget your sorrows and problems. Essentially it doesn’t matter what state of mind you are in. If you have a good game, the game is a platform for people to engage with each other. The main characteristics of a good game are that they bring people together.
‘Co-operative games take away the competitiveness of the individual pursuit of winning but creates a common experience and enables the players to work together to achieve a common goal. The competitiveness is shared in a team experience. Whether as a group or on your own, win or lose, it’s about the experience and the social aspect of gaming. The game is an instigator for social interaction’.
He continues, ‘What I like in games is…no long rules. I want to focus on fun and have lots of choices. That there is so much to do but I am limited, that’s what I expect in life, why should I have less in a game?’
Reiner advises people to stay away from strategic games like chess where you become insular, focus on your tactics and don’t communicate with each other. Aim for simple, fast moving party games, shorter the rules the better. Reiner has a fantastic catalogue of games he has created with this purpose:
- Loot from Gamewright. 8+ 2-8 players
- The Hobbit Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games. 10+ 2-5 players
- Pickomino Game from Rio Grande Games. 8+ 2-6 players
- Word Bits from The green board game Co. 8+ 1+ players
- Whoo was it! from Ravensburger. 6+ 2-4 players
I also managed to hook up with Joanna and Kaja from games guru site ‘The Starlit Citadel’. For them a fantastic gaming experience is one that can be recounted after play has finished. A game has to be thematic and immersive and the important thing is the people that are taking part. Joanna explains, ‘Gaming in a relaxed and fun atmosphere is the best experience in the world’. Dads, you can provide that atmosphere!
Kaja continues ‘The learning aspect of games should be emphasized. Placing a father in the role of explainer/helper to a child learning a game allows for a large amount of positive interaction where the father can support the child and help them gain confidence as they progress through the game, and share in their triumphs as they figure things out’. Together we’ve whittled down a list of ace games to try.
- Forbidden Island by Gamewright. 10+ 2-5 players (Co-operative)
- Castle Panic by Fireside Games. 10+ 1-6 players (Co-operative)
- Hey that’s my fish! Fantasy Flight Games. 3+ 2-4 players
- Love letter by AEG. 8yrs+ 2-4 players
- Struggle for Catan by Mayfair Games, Inc. 8+ 2-4 players
- My First Carcassonne by Zman Games. 4+. 2-4 players
- Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson games. 10+ 3-8 players
- Red November by Fantasy Flight Games. 12yrs+ 1-8 players (Co-operative)
- Dixit by Asmodee Editions. 8+ 3-6 players
- Flash Point, Fire Rescue by Indie Boards & Cards. 10+ 2-6 players (Co-operative)
Through my own experience with my kids, and through talking to other dads in similar situations, playing games does work. It may take a certain amount of effort to muster the energy and enthusiasm to set the dice rolling, as it were, and get stuck into a board game, but your efforts will pay off when you find a box shoved under your nose or a hand full of dice, a smile and a request for you to come and play, and you then get the opportunity to create a happy and fulfilling experience for both you and your children.
We’ll leave the last word to Knizia: “It’s important to have the goal of winning in the game. But it is the goal that is important, not the winning. You need a goal, you need to drive towards something it is essentially more important than winning”
There are many places to find out about games, there are countless reviews online if you want to do a bit of research, and there many great independent gaming outlets on the street and online.
About the author
James is a single parent, learning to write, so he jumped right in at the deep end, volunteering to write for CALM
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