Gaming and the Parent-Child Relationship
Countless studies show how important it is for parents to play with their young children. The developmentally positive effects on social skills, physical and emotional regulation, and creativity are seemingly endless. Parents fulfill roles as a teacher and guide as a child plays. They offer coaching and support when a child is getting overly frustrated. They offer challenges and opportunity when a child is bored. Children play to figure out the world and parents help them with that daunting task. But above all else parents play to build a meaningful positive relationship with their child.
At some point, many parents feel they are losing that sense of closeness with their child. Children get older and become more self-sufficient. They find activities that perhaps parents aren’t interested in and parents rightfully enjoy some regained freedom. But then communication lines become more closed and parents feel their kids aren’t talking to them like they used to. While part of this is very natural and will happen no matter what, there are ways to lessen this strain.
One of those ways is for many parents to stop looking at video games as a kid’s activity. Play video games with your kids instead of sending them off to play by themselves. I have nothing against Candy Crush or Mario Kart, but don’t shy away from the deeper games with story lines, adventure, strategy and personal achievement. Maybe this isn’t where your interests lie, but it is often where their interests lie. As a parent you likely weren’t stacking blocks or playing monster in your spare time, but you did it with them. Children play video games for the same reasons they played as infants and toddlers and parents should be playing games with them for the same reasons they did at that time.
There is a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in gaming that mirrors those feelings they got as children. When you and your child are accomplishing those things together, you are strengthening a bond that was formed early on. So, with appropriate boundaries and time limits in mind, play video games with your kids, or at least watch them play and ask questions. They will likely be excited to tell you all about it and you can feel good that you are staying connected, or reconnecting with your child.
By Jay Stone, M. Ed., LPC