As a child, my father abandoned us when I was 10-years-old. My mother was left to raise my brother and I all by her lonesome, sometimes working three jobs just to support us. It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life. I admire her for it, and also for keeping a strong head on her shoulders, not giving up, and always remembering the importance of family.

One of the things she instituted early on, was a game night. Whether you’re a single parent, or a family of five, activities like that can go a long way toward building healthy relationships, encouraging conversation, and yes, instilling the value of competition in your children.

Game nights are about so much more than playing Monopoly, UNO, or Trivial Pursuit. They are about connecting with your children. You can roll the dice, and ask them how school is going. Flip over a card, and find out about what boys they like. You can laugh, share, and provide a sense of intimacy. All in just a couple of hours time. It beats sitting in front of the television, where you’re quick to be shushed for asking a simple question.

As someone who is just coming into fatherhood, I try my best to connect with my step-daughter. Not because I want her to like me, but because I believe in the bond of family. I see a lot of me in her, and know that she’s probably experiencing a lot of the same things I felt when my mother got remarried. Fear, anxiety, and confusion. Setting time aside for game night isn’t always easy, and it will probably take some time to get used to, but before you know it, your kids will probably be reminding you what happens on Tuesday nights, and that is a sign that you’re doing things just right.