I have a friend who is living in a co-housing situation, two families in one house. She was concerned that the other family was suppressing irritations and not talking about them. She asked me if I had any ideas, maybe any games, which could help them communicate better.
Well, I thought for a minute, and said I don’t think there is any one game you can play to improve communication, since communication is trust-based. The best way to improve trust is to create a space that is safe for everyone, where everyone can show up fully, and enjoy each other. Even better if it can create a sense of being part of something larger than oneself, part of a household instead of a family or individual. I suggested that she try to set up regular play dates or even household dinners where they can play games over dinner. They could play “One of these things is not like the others” by picking four random words and explaining why one was different (gets people to think creatively about how things are or are not linked). They could pick three random words and create a story using the words – even the kids can get into that. They could tell stories about their days or their lives. Or they could all play Banangrams or Scattergories or quadruple solitaire, or anything else that created a shared and fun space. Once spaces like that become part of the life of the household, it makes it easier for everyone to bring up subjects that are a little more difficult. It gives people a sense that the household is resilient enough to survive being challenged, and that everyone can be all of who they are without having to hold parts back.
She thought this was a great idea, but as far as I know hasn’t implemented any of these games. I expect it’s hard to introduce new ideas like that to the other family, just as it’s difficult to talk about irritations. There’s a risk of being rejected or laughed at. There are logistical issues to work out. There are multi-generational interest and ability differentials. I find it can be hard in my own household to get everyone’s nose out of their own reading or electronic media to have a conversation. I believe in the benefits of playing together as a family or household, and will keep trying to incorporate these ideas into my own household. Maybe my friend can start with stories from three words, and see if it grows from there. Or Story Cubes, or Trivia cards, or anything else that can start a conversation and connection. How would you start playing together in your household?