A Simple Game For Building a Stronger Family

stronger familyJohn Gottman, PhD, who is basically the king of marriage therapy in my opinion, gets couples to play a game to enhance a couple’s Love Maps. The general concept is that each person in a relationship has a “love map” in which they store information about their partner. The relationships that last have partners with “full” love maps. In other words, they know a lot about their partner’s dreams, fears, goals, hopes, quirks, likes, dislikes, and so on.

This concept of the love map has me thinking lately… I wonder if this can apply to families as well? Are happy families also in tune with one another on a deep emotional level as well? By pulling from the idea of Gottman’s love map for couples, I have come up with questions for families. This game can be played with children from preschool on up, but questions may be modified. If you don’t like these, or think of more great questions, go ahead and change it up a bit. And if you have good questions, please share with the rest of us! 🙂

Step 1: As a family, decide upon 10 numbers between 1 and 40.

Step 2: One family member at a time takes a number and the corresponding question from the list below and asks another family member to answer. The person asking may choose who they want to ask this question. If other members want to voluntarily share their answer, they may do so only after the first person chosen has answered.

Final Tip: There is not much to this game other than answering some questions, so I recommend doing it over pizza, during a winter camp fire, before starting a movie, or just before bed time.


  1. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  2. When do you get angry?
  3. What are your three favorite past times?
  4. What is your ideal vacation and who would you bring?
  5. If you received a $5000 gift, how would you spend it?
  6. If you could be the top player in any sport, what would it be?
  7. Describe one of you happiest memories with your family.
  8. What do you like most about yourself?
  9. What do you like most about your family?
  10. What is your favorite season of the year?
  11. What do you desire most for your birthday this year?
  12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  13. Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
  14. What book or magazine are you currently reading?
  15. What is your favorite board game?
  16. What is your favorite card game?
  17. What talents are you most proud of?
  18. Share a time when your feelings were hurt.
  19. Tell about a time when you felt proud of yourself.
  20. Tell about a time when you felt supported by one, or more, person in your family.
  21. Tell about a time when you stood up for someone or something.
  22. What do you feel challenged by lately?
  23. Where is your favorite room in the house?
  24. Where do you feel safest?
  25. Say three words to describe how you are feeling right now.
  26. If you could be invisible, where would you go?
  27. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
  28. What are your three favorite foods?
  29. What do you like most about yourself?
  30. If you discovered a burried treasure, what would you hope to be inside?
  31. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
  32. If everything in your life changed except for one thing, what would be the one thing that stayed the same?
  33. If you could have lunch with a famous person, who would it be?
  34. What is the greatest change that has ever taken place in your life?
  35. What values have you learned from your parents?
  36. Who do you most desire to be like?
  37. What is your favorite cartoon?
  38. Talk about a time when someone helped you.
  39. Talk about a time when you helped someone.
  40. What is your favorite section at the zoo?

Kids Feel “Out of Control” When Angry and How We Can Help

Emotions can be very strong and feel overwhelming at times, and this is especially true for children. Depending on their developmental level, they may not fully understand what the feeling is, what it is called, why they feel that way or what caused it, and especially how to handle the feelings. It’s up to us as adults to recognize this emotional immaturity and help them to grow.

About a month ago, I was introduced to The Home Teacher’s series of anger management activities called “Don’t Be An Angry Bird.” These are brilliant exercises that incorporate the popular Angry Bird characters into teaching kids about types of anger and various coping skills. They are so fun. All I had to do was hang a picture of the various angry birds up in my room and the curious kids actually initiated the discussion!

Here is a picture of the different types of angry birds.

Side note: For the “Angry Eyes” Bird, I have the kids show me their angry eyes and I show them mine. We have a good laugh at one another! 🙂

So, of all these different types of “birds,” which one would you choose to represent your anger? Which one do you think kids choose most to describe their anger? I have done this activity with at least 10 kids and 9 have chosen the BODY OUT OF CONTROL bird to describe how they perceive themselves when they are angry. I find this fascinating and insightful!

This activity has reinforced the idea that kids are still very new to the big world of feelings. Emotions can be strong and often overwhelming, and for little ones, it’s magnified. Depending on their developmental level, they may not fully understand what the feeling is, what it is called, why they feel that way or what caused it, and especially how to handle the feelings.

The “terrible two’s” is a prime example of what it looks like when feelings are new and the body feels out of control. A toddler will scream, stomp their feel, stiffen their body, roll around on the ground, and run around the room. It’s obvious they are feeling out of control. Consider this the starting point in a child’s emotional development. Over time, they begin to recognize the feelings and learn some self-control. However, it’s not until adulthood (hopefully) that they are fully mature in this emotional development.

So how can we help our kids in their path to emotional maturity?

  1. Validate the child’s feelings. Let them know their feelings are normal and acceptable (even if their current expression of those emotions is not).
  2. Give their feelings a name. Anytime you have an opportunity, label the feelings you observe in the child and help them to label their feelings as well.
  3. Encourage them to verbalize their feelings out loud with I-statements (I’m mad, sad, etc…).
  4. Teach them appropriate coping skills. Keep in mind that modeling these skills is the best teaching tool!!

I will end with a favorite quote from Yoda for all the Littles out there struggling with these Great Big Feelings!

“Control, Control, You must learn control!”

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