Pokémon Go(ing for a Walk)

You’ve heard of the Pokémon Go craze, right? The game allows people to hunt for Pokémon 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 Pokémon 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 Pokémon 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? Pokémon Go is the closest I’ve ever seen. My husband and I discussed and decided our son could play Pokémon Go if he could follow certain rules. 1) Pokémon 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) Pokémon 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 Pokémon 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 Pokémon. 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 Pokémon. 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. Pokémon 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?