Psychologists have long studied ways to enhance family harmony and interrelations. Some of the most widely suggested therapies to increase harmony between family members, are to develop good communications, be honest and approachable, and enter into every relationship with openness and a pleasant demeanor.
All three of those suggestions can easily be combined into one simple enjoyable family therapy session with a good game. For young children, board games are an excellent way to develop positive thinking skills, creative competition, and healthy attitudes toward winning and losing. Whether playing sports or a board game, everyone involved wants to win, and parents should encourage and teach their children, the ways of winning. But it is equally important for family members to learn to lose gracefully. In every game there is at least one winner, but there is also one loser.
The psychology lab at North Carolina State University recruited a group of families to take part in a study of family relations, playing a game called Life Stories. "Every family has issues, so we asked them to engage and talk about some of the issues that matter to them," said Dr. Amy Halberstadt, an associate professor at N.C. State. Halberstadt wanted to know how different families respond to serious issues in the home, so they developed the study to research how families respond to issues raised during games they play.
Halberstadt believes that games themselves can reduce stress in the home, and improve relationships between family members. She calls the process the 5-to-1 ratio. "So if you can boost your positive conversations, compliment, positive experiences; to have 5 of those for every one conflict or negative experience, that really seems to benefit families," said Halberstadt.
The Life Stories game is a typical roll-the-dice board game, where you move a character around the board and draw cards. But the questions on the cards get players talking about their emotions, values, and issues in family life at home. The issues that arise while playing the game give Halberstadt clues to how the family handles issues in their own lives. Using the game, Halberstadt is able to help families discuss "shared goals" as a way to reduce conflicts.
The N.C. State psychology department is looking for more families to participate in the study. Interested families can contact the school at 919-515-1730 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.