Ready Player Two

Do you let your child play video games?

I’ve shared with you before that we don’t have a gaming system in our house. We do have computers, phones and tablets, so while my son sometimes thinks our family not having a XBOX or PlayStation is ‘the worst’ though he’s really not all that deprived.

Over the holidays I was finally able to watch the movie my son had been talking about, Ready Player One. A movie about how gaming had taken over, and the fight to remind us what is really important was on (spoiler alert: connection). ūüėä I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. Perhaps it was the nostalgia tied to the 80s throwbacks (music and games), or how smartly the story was told, or the fact that connecting at a human level — friendship, treating others as equals, and finding room to share success — all resonated with me. While the movie was titled Ready Player One, it left me with a Ready Player 2 feeling (we are better together in numbers).

We went away for a few days over the holiday break. The place we go to has a game room. My son asked me to accompany him to the game room. The XBOXs were taken but an old arcade style game was available. “Wanna play?” I asked. “Sure,” he replied. He hit the 2 player button and we each took turns at Pac-Man, Galaga, and Astroids. It was fun to play together. I was good at some of the games, but he was better at most, and I was fine with that.

After the trip everyone shared their favorite moments. He said, “Going on hikes, and going to the game room you, Mom.” It was a highlight for me too (though maybe for different reasons?). ūüėä

I look forward to any activity my son wants to engage me on. I’m ready. Consider me player 2.

How do you and your child connect over games? What are some of your favorite memories?

Pok√©mon Go(ing for a Walk)

You’ve heard of the Pok√©mon Go craze, right?¬†The game¬†allows¬†people¬†to hunt for Pok√©mon in real life using their smart devices.

I learned about the craze early on. Not because I’m a super fan (though my oldest likes the card game and cartoons), or I’m generally in the know on these kinds of things, but because I happened to be in a store the Saturday following it’s launch and the person I was working with shared the news. “Have you seen people walking around outside that can’t look up from their phones? They’re playing Pok√©mon Go. It’s everywhere,” he shared. How true it was, people inside and outside the store literally couldn’t take their eyes off their phones.

After learning of this game, my son really wanted me to download it. I had my reservations (particularly since you have to turn on your phone’s camera and location-based services to play the game), and I wasn’t sure I wanted my son to play another video game where he was ultra-focused on the screen and not on his surroundings. Then the news stories started coming out — people using Pok√©mon Go to rob people (frightening), people walking off cliffs and driving their car into trees. There were lots of reasons to say “no” to my son,¬†yet, I could see the appeal of the game for him. How cool would it be for a game you like to come to life? Pok√©mon Go is the closest I’ve ever seen. My husband and I discussed and decided our son could play Pok√©mon Go if he could follow certain rules. 1) Pok√©mon Go can only be done with one of us accompanying him and only for a limited amount of time each day, 2) He would have to look up from the phone when crossing the street, if¬†he can’t, he’ll lose privileges for a day (and if he does this repetitively he’ll lose them for good), and 3) Pok√©mon Go will not dictate where we go. Our son agreed to our terms, and he began to play.

What I wasn’t expecting was all the walking. In order to catch Pok√©mon you have to find them out in the real world, which means you’ve got to move. It’s become a ritual for us each night to go for a walk around the neighborhood to find Pok√©mon. It actually is fun for all of us. We get to walk and enjoy the nicer weather, see new parts of the neighborhood (or local park) that we haven’t been to in a while, point out things going on around us, catch up on how our days were, and catch Pok√©mon. My husband and I have talked in the past about walking more after dinner but didn’t have anything that really motivated us to get out of the house. Pok√©mon Go is motivating the kids, which is motivating us. I never would have thought this game could bring us together the way it has, but¬†am grateful for this very unexpected benefit.

What games (board, card, video, etc.) connect you and your family? How are you enjoying time together this summer?

 

Talk to Me (or someone you trust)

Have you ever wondered what your child was thinking or feeling, and gotten frustrated when they weren’t able (or willing) to talk to you about it?

My oldest son is getting to the age where he is starting to hold back on what he shares with my husband and I. He is willing to ask questions and come to us when something is really on his mind, but struggles to talk to us (or his caregivers or teachers, etc.) when he is frustrated or upset. In these instances, his go-to strategy has been to express his frustration¬†with a grunt¬†and closed fists, or to simply walk away. While I appreciate him being aware enough that he knows he needs to calm himself done before responding, I yearn¬†for him to talk to me (or my husband, or his caregiver, teacher, etc.) to tell us what is going on and why he is getting so frustrated, angry or upset. When he doesn’t or isn’t willing, I feel helpless to help him. It’s feels awful.

We enrolled our son in a camp that was recommended to us to help with these types of struggles. When I picked him up following a day of camp his counselor came over and shared that he refused to participate and talk to them during the day. We discussed how we could get him to open up. The camp, which is outdoors-focused, runs a MineCraft project for their participants. They set-up a project the kids can work on, and help them with their social¬†interactions. My son heard about this and wanted to join. We saw an opportunity to help him get what he wanted (to ‘play’ MineCraft) while helping him open up and better express himself when frustrated or upset. “I’ll make you a deal. You tell your counselor what is bothering you¬†tomorrow, and we’ll consider letting you play MineCraft,”¬†I offered. “Okay,” my son quickly replied. The following day, he eagerly greeted me and said, “Mom, I told the counselor what was bothering me today!” He was excited about it (I’m sure his excitement was around the possibility of him playing MineCraft increasing, but I’ll take it).¬† I told him that I was glad to hear it, and I’d talk to the camp counselor about how to get him set-up to play with the other participants. My husband and I are not necessarily video game fans, but thought this was about as good as we could hope for as an introduction to the gaming world. As my son and I were leaving I reiterated why it was so important he not keep his thoughts and feelings to himself all the time. “We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us. We don’t know what you’re feeling or thinking. We can’t read your mind. But we can help you when you are willing to tell us. Make sense?” “Okay, Mom. I’ve got it.” We’ll see if this works, but it feels like we’re heading on the right path. I’m feeling a little less helpless.

How have you gotten your child to talk to you when they were reluctant to do so?