Surviving the indoors as a family

The family that plays together stays together. At least that’s my reworking of the expression. But as we literally weather one of the coldest winters we’ve had in years, I’m starting to think it’s more like the family that plays together and doesn’t try to lock another family member out in the freezing cold, is the one that survives.

With four kids, we do play together. We always have. Board games, trivia contests, scavenger hunts, not to mention our ski trips, camping trips, and summer vacations where we were known to force our children to put on talent shows. Sometimes, that talent may have included jumping over one’s own leg.

We have two boys and two girls, so the opportunities for sibling rivalry are rife, and no more so is this evident when sitting down to a friendly game. We can go boys versus girls, younger versus older, or what my kids call “innies” vs “outies”. No, not belly buttons. The middle kids are the innies, and the youngest and oldest the outies.

So for those of you just getting into family games to pass the long hours trapped at home together, I’ll lay out a few rules you might want to consider, based on my extensive experience and associated frustrations and bewilderment in this field. I’m hoping this can help you avoid some confrontations, punch-ups and other disastrous situations.

  1. Don’t assign game pieces to people whose nostrils or any other body openings are bigger than the game piece they are playing with, if under the age of five.
  2. Pay close attention if one of the kids seems to be taking extensive notes during a game of Clue, while eyeing up your antique dining room candlesticks.
  3. If your seven-year-old comes up with the word “antediluvian” during a game of Scrabble, check his pockets for a Google-enabled phone.
  4. It’s fun to let the kids make up scavenger hunt lists, but do a scan to make sure they haven’t included items such as their own used underwear, body excretions or things they have to physically rip from walls or steal from neighbours.
  5. Be prepared for “What colour underwear am I wearing?” to be the first, second, third, and fourth question your seven-year-old son asks during his turn at trivia. (However, should the correct answer change each time, this could be a good thing if they are known for their sparse underwear changing habits. Don’t overlook that benefit.)
  6. Don’t make the kids who really fight form a team, in the faint hope of encouraging them to bond. It will likely only encourage team hitting and pinching.
  7. It’s good to have a prize for the winner of game ONLY if the winner is determined in a totally unobjective manner. If there is judging involved, you will be the one who really doesn’t win. IT’S NOT FAIR.
  8. By all means, videotape the talent show. By no means, allow the teenager in the house to access it and share it across Facebook, particularly if Mom and Dad choose to participate after a few game-friendly libations.
  9. Never put a finance expert in charge of the bank.  Of course the alternative to cabin fever is to get out there in the freezing cold. This is a viable option. The cold temperatures just might force everyone to stay together.

Kathy Buckworth’s latest book, I Am So The Boss Of You, is available at bookstores everywhere and on Kobo and Audible. She is also the Chief Family Advisor for Presidents Choice Financial. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com and follow her on Twitter @KathyBuckworth.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February 2014.

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