Games for Therapists and Parents: Additional thoughts on Jenga

jenga

I’ve noticed a lot of people have checked out my previous post “Jenga Anxieties and Worries.” Here are few more thoughts that I’ve came up with lately to add onto the topic.  Please take a look at the previous post, if you haven’t read it already — it will help give you a better context to what I am talking about.  Thank you for reading!  Please leave a comment, I would love to hear what you think!

1. At the end of the game, and after you’ve talked about or processed with your child or client their worries and anxieties, have them write down their anxiety and worry on one of the blocks.  Give it to them as a momento or souvenir, reminding them what worry and anxiety can do to them, if they don’t ask for help, share their burdens, or when take on too many things.  Just make sure you have plenty of extra blocks before you start giving them away.

Therapists, another idea is to do this with more of your clients, letting them write down their anxiety or worry on a piece of Jenga block, and begin a collection of Jenga blocks to use for the game.  So, whenever you pull out the game to play, other clients would be able to see and read what previous clients have wrote down on the blocks, and it would help them normalize what they are going through.  This will help them feel that they are not alone.  Of course, have your clients anonymously write down their worry and anxiety.

2.  This second idea is a demonstration of stress while playing Jenga.  It is not to be used as punishment, nor to purposely thwart or discourage your child or client.  It is to help them see how stress could affect their performance when playing this game.

After the first round, ask your child or client(s) to carry/hold one textbook (preferably those big, thick history, social studies, or math, or science text books) in one of their hands as they pull out their Jenga brick.  With each additional round, ask them to add another text book to their hand before they proceed with their turn.

After the tower falls, process with your child or client(s), ask them: how did it feel to have the extra weight when they were playing the game?  Was it harder to concentrate or focus with additional burdens while playing the game?  What can they connect these extra burdens to what is going on for them in their own life?  Ask them what they can do to unload those extra burdens in their own life to help them better manage the things they need to do?

This demonstration is also good for kids who struggle with ADHD, and teaching about concentration, coping skills, and self-care when one is balancing too many things in life.  With the kind of stress and schedules our high school kids are having in order to get into college, this activity may be good to help them realize the effects of having too many things on their plate.

Hope this is helpful!  Enjoy!

 

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Games for Therapist and Parents: Jenga Anxieties and Worries

Jenga

 

When you think of the game Jenga, does your hands start to get sweaty and you feel a bit jumpy and nervous?  For me, Jenga has a way of bringing out my anxieties rather than containing them — which actually makes it a great game to play with your kids or in therapy.

Next time you play Jenga, have each player answer one of the following questions each time they pull out a block and successfully places it on the top of the stack.

–  Name one of the things you’re nervous or worried about.

–  What do you do when you’re worried?

–  Tell about a time when you were worried or nervous, and what happened?

–  Name one of your remedies or solutions for feeling nervous or worried?

–  Name one thing that happens to your body physically when you get nervous or worried. (i.e. sweating, shaking, etc)

The main purpose of playing Jenga this way is to create discussion, encourage authenticity and transparency, and to normalize feelings of worry and anxiety.  So, the point of this game is not to be “Mr or Ms. Fix-It.”  Create an open and safe environment by listening, empathizing, and walking in the person who is sharing’s shoes.

DON’T GIVE ADVICE.  Even if your child or the client asks for advice, take the opportunity to encourage their problem solving skills rather than your own.  By doing this, you are empowering them and building their self-esteem and confidence.

Parents, you’d be surprised how your children will react when you share about a time when you were nervous or worried.  Showing your kids, especially adolescents, that you don’t have it all together will actually build respect, not tear it down.  Therapists, this activity is great for building rapport — just remember to prepare in advance and consider transference or counter-transference issues.

Lastly, when the Jenga tower collapses, remind everyone that even though the tower has collapsed, we are still standing; we have survived.

Have fun! Enjoy!

Please also check out “Additional thoughts on Jenga.”

 

 

Games for Therapists and Parents: The Journey of Chutes and Ladders

chutesandladders

One of the games I loved AND hated as a kid was “Chutes and Ladders.”

Basically, “Chutes and Ladders” is a random game of chance that all depends on the spin of the spinner and where you land.  When I played the game as a kid, I rarely looked at the pictures, but the pictures actually try to teach the player that actions have consequences.  If you take a closer look at the pictures, good, productive, and helpful actions will be rewarded with good consequences and climbs up the ladder towards ‘winner’ tile, while silly, stupid, and bad actions will reap bad consequences and chutes that bring you further from the ‘winner’ tile. Overall, this is a game that’s great for teaching about consequences to younger, elementary school kids.

However, here’s a twist.  Play this game with your middle schooler, high schooler, or young adult, and call it, “The Journey of Chutes and Ladders.”

Whenever a person lands on a ladder that propels them forward, have the person talk about an event in their life where they felt like they were climbing the ladder, getting ahead in life, or just having a good day.  Have them talk about the circumstances or actions that led them to feel that way.  Have them talk about how that felt.

Whenever a person lands on a chute that drops them back, have the person talk about an event in their life where they felt like they fell, failed, or just having a bad day.  Have them talk about the circumstances or actions that led them to feel that way.  Have them talk about the feelings that they struggled with or if they were able to get out of it.

Allow the game to bring out the natural frustrations, disappointments, sadness, anger, or even excitement, elation, joy, and courage that this game could invoke, and allow everyone to relate or tie it to something that has happened to them in life.  Focus on these themes and keep these in mind as you play:

1.  Sometimes good or bad things happen outside of our control.  Life could be unfair.

2.  Process the feelings and celebrate the victories that were shared by each person.

3.  Process the feelings and grieve the losses, failures, crisis, mistakes, etc that were shared by each person.  Ask the person what was it that kept them going — “What strength did you lean on during that struggle?”

4.  The point of playing “Chutes and Ladders” this way is to focus on building connection, trust, safety, and rapport.  Listen, reflect, empathize, and also be willing to share.  (Therapists, this is a good time to be Rogerian.)  As I said before, if you’re a therapist, think of some things you’d be comfortable sharing that won’t disrupt your relationship with your client.  However, if you’re a parent, I would challenge you to be a bit more vulnerable, authentic, and real, especially if you’re kids are older.

In the end, our journey in life is full of “chutes and ladders,” failures and successes, disappointment and fulfillment, and struggles and victories.  We get stuck if we try to define ourselves by either one or the other.

Games for Therapists and Parents: Uno Feelings Game

Uno

This game is great for therapists and parents.  If you ever want to connect with your clients or your kids, ask them how they are doing in a non-threatening way by playing Uno with them!  My version of Uno is called, “The Uno Feelings Game.”

The rules are simple.  Basically, you play Uno, and whenever someone changes the color of the cards, the person share a feeling based on the color of the card.

If they change the deck to yellow or red, they would have to share a positive feeling (happy, confident, excited, etc) to the rest of the group.  If they change the deck to blue or green, they would have to share a negative feeling (sad, worried, angry, etc) to the rest of the group.  If they use a ‘wild’ card, they choose the color and share either a positive or negative feeling according to the color they chose.  Also, the game cannot continue until the person begins talking about a positive or negative feeling they’ve experienced.

I found this game to be really effective, even with high school kids, and because it is a game, it totally changes the mood and disarms our children.

The hard part is talking about your own feelings.  If you’re a therapist, think of some things you’d be comfortable sharing that won’t disrupt your relationship with your client.

However, if you’re a parent, I would challenge you to be a bit more vulnerable, authentic, and real, especially if you’re kids are older.  For example, parents, talk about the last time you tried and failed at something, and how you felt about it.

It will truly encourage, develop rapport, and build respect with your kids.