“If You Could See Inside my Head….”: A Game for Building Relationship and Resilience

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Since this week is Spring Break here in Oregon, we have a fun game for you to try!  It’s all about building children’s resilience by strengthening their relationships. First we’ll show you how, with our new infographic. Then we’ll explain why this works below. You can click here for a PDF of the infographic (it prints on one page): If-you-could-see-game-building-resilience-infographic 

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Why does this game help with resilience?

Having relationships with adults who listen and support children’s thoughts and feelings is a crucial part of resilience for kids. Children need adults who believe in them and their abilities to overcome challenges- adults who listen and support them in good times and bad. These relationships shape their ability to cope under stress and handle life’s challenges and difficulties.

When parents stay involved and aware about what’s going on for their children, in their school and social life, this also tends to be a protective factor for children’s long term school and life success. This is especially true during the time when it becomes most difficult to open a dialogue with them, often when children approach the teenage years. But it can also be difficult when they are struggling in some area, and may be more likely to shut down when we suddenly try to get them to open up. You may have already experienced the common frustration of this kind of conversation, “How was school?” “Fine.” “What did you do today?” “I dunno.” When we start building our children’s habit of sharing their experiences with us when they are young, it is often easier, and more likely, that they will continue this habit as they get older.

We can also help our children practice resilient thinking in the way we talk about and encourage their abilities. When we only focus on their final product, “you got an ‘A’!”, or character traits, “you’re so smart”, children may actually be less likely to try new or hard things, and even give up when things get hard. They may feel worried that they might fail and therefore not be seen as smart anymore.

However, when adults praise children for their hard work and effort along the way, children are more likely to try new and difficult things, and work hard when things aren’t easy. You can help children see difficulties as challenges through this game and reflecting on their experiences. When we show we value children’s hard work and effort through our interest and encouragement, they can also learn to appreciate the process and build a growth mindset.

Try using this back and forth game to talk about tough times, too. Use topics like: when you didn’t give up even when something was hard, how you figured out a tough problem, or how you tried to make a new friend. “If you could see inside my head, you would know that I worked really hard to not give up on my math homework even though it was really, really hard.” Or you can just give children an opportunity to talk about situations that were hard for them, and help them problem solve or just see difficulties as challenges they can work hard at to get better. “If you could see inside my head, you would know that my science project was so confusing today it made me angry, but I didn’t give up and me and Sarah figured it out.”

Rules of the game:

This is a verbal turn-taking game that is simple and quick, doesn’t require any materials, and can be a fun way to get in the habit of knowing what is going on in your child’s experience. For teachers, this activity can be a fun lunch time activity for children to practice back and forth conversation skills with each other, building friendships and connection in the classroom.

To play the game with two people, decide who will go first and who will listen. While person 2 listens, person 1 says, “If you could see inside my head, you would know that…” and finishes the sentence with something about themselves. Then person 2 takes a turn completing the sentence about themselves while person 1 listens.

Further practice suggestions:

For younger children: It is helpful to provide them with simple topics to discuss. For example, favorite things and least favorite things: foods, desserts, games, characters, colors, etc. This might sound like, “Let’s say our favorite game to play at recess. If you could see inside my head, you would know that my favorite game at recess is tetherball. Your turn!”

Classroom friendship skills: You can also use this in your classroom to help children practice back and forth conversation skills and making new friends. Try talking to the class about what it means to be friendly. When we are friendly we listen to our friends and ask them questions to learn more about what they like and don’t like. And sometimes we find out that we have the same interests. Then pair children up and have them practice completing the phrase, “if you could see inside my head, you would know that…” while their partner listens. For younger kids it’s helpful to give them a topic to start with. For older kids, you can try using a timer to give the speaker a set amount of time to say as many things as she or he can, while the other person practices listening.

Whichever way you play, have fun!!!


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