The LightHouse Arabia launches SmartHeart® board game V2.0 to assist children in communicating their feelings

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The interactive game aims to facilitate and foster mental and emotional health while encouraging children to think for themselves and create solutions to their problems.

Dubai, UAE: The LightHouse Arabia launches SmartHeart® V2.0, a revolutionary board game developed by psychologists to cultivate emotional intelligence in children. The board game launches with the sole purpose and aim to change the way many children express themselves and interact with others. The interactive game, which makes use of picture and word cards that assist children in identifying and communicating their feelings, aims to facilitate and foster mental and emotional health while encouraging children to think for themselves and create solutions to their problems. The game is available for purchase at The LightHouse Arabia clinic, located in Dubai, for only AED 250 as well as online.

“Children express themselves through play and SmartHeart® gives them the platform to do so,” explains SmartHeart® creator Christine Kritzas, a counselling psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia.  

Dr Saliha Afridi, co-creator, clinical psychologist and Managing Director at The LightHouse Arabia adds, “SmartHeart® gives a window into a child’s world. This allows parents and educators to be a present witness to a child’s experiences and bond deeply with these children,” emphasising that the game is not only a tool for parents but occupational therapists, speech therapists, paediatricians, counsellors and other professionals dealing with children.

In looking for new ways to interact with children in the therapeutic space, the two psychologists developed a game for children between the ages of 4 and 11 that allows them to confront serious issues playfully, creating a safe environment where they’re comfortable to speak about things that happen on the playground, in the classroom, with friends and at home. SmartHeart® V2.0 of the board game caters to the experiences of third culture kids in that the content is culturally-sensitive and relatable across all religions, races and traditions. Moreover, it helps normalize such experiences such as divorce, grief, fears, friendship, and sibling rivalry which are universally common amongst children and families.

“Society places such emphasis on intellectual and physical development, putting pressure on children to score A-grades and make the first team in sports, but sometimes parents and teachers miss the importance of cultivating emotional intelligence in kids. A child could possess the ability to score high grades and make the first team but could fail to reach these achievements when his or her emotional maturity is not at the level that it should be. Emotional intelligence can be taught to individuals across the lifespan, and children can cultivate empathy and social skills over time,” says Kritzas.

Testimonials endorsing the game are constantly being fed back to the creators – like a single father discovering, through playing SmartHeart® that his son is scared of heights and lonely at break time. “We’ve given single parents, mothers and fathers a tool with which to engage with their child, while spending quality time together, chatting and enquiring about the child’s day without the child realising how much he’s disclosing,” said Dr Afridi. “If a problem is identified through playing the game, a parent or child can initiate a brainstorming session where they can think of creative solutions to the problem. Such knowledge empowers parents, and allows them to approach a professional for assistance, notify a teacher, and move forward using the information in the best interest of their child.”

How it works:

As players move forward on the board, they land on one of three options:

  1. Talk-Talk cards: answering questions that are anchored in emotional intelligence, e.g. Why should you say thank you when someone gives you something? Or: A girl is playing by herself at break time. How could you include her in your game?
  2. I feel…when… cards: talking about a time when they felt the same feeling that is represented on the card, e.g. I feel embarrassed (or scared, or jealous etc.) when…
  3. Pic-Tales cards: describing or telling a story about the picture on the card, e.g. a picture of a child playing by themselves on the playground, or a child standing in the middle of two adults arguing.

It is important to note that there is no right or wrong answer, only the experience as perceived by the person answering. Each game also includes a Curious Conversations Booklet which serves as a guideline for adults to create a safe space for children to express their thoughts and feelings. It includes additional questions to ask that will elicit meaningful conversations around feelings and encourage further story-telling, as well as meaningful disclosures. It also highlights the differences between validating vs. dismissive statements and shares examples of each. 

In essence, SmartHeart® aims to facilitate emotional expression, build emotional literacy, strengthen self-regulation, fosters empathy and improve social skills in children.

The SmartHeart® board game V2.0 is available directly from LightHouse Arabia at a cost of AED 250. Purchase for the SmartHeart® board game V2.0 can also be made through the website or online at: linktr.ee/smartheartboardgame, with options for pick-up, local delivery and international shipping.    

About Dr Saliha Afridi:

As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples and families. Dr Afridi has worked with prominent companies and ministries such as The Executive Council, The National Program for Happiness and Well-being from the Happiness Ministry, many professional service firms and fortune 100 companies in her bid to dissolve mental health stigma and be at the forefront of the mental health movement within the UAE and the region. Dr Afridi’s vision is to make mental health practices more accessible through licensing and insurance reforms, changes within the education system to teach about mental health and emotional and mental wellbeing from a young age, taking a preventative approach to mental health rather than treatment-based approach. Seeing the need for increased mental health literacy, she took the initiative to bring the internationally acclaimed Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to the UAE in 2017, with The LightHouse Arabia becoming the only licensed provider for the evidence-based course which enables adults and teens to become accredited mental health first aiders. Dr Afridi is committed to leading and being at the centre of the continued positive mental health changes to be seen in the region.

About Christine Kritzas:

Christine Kritzas is a Counselling Psychologist who is committed to exploring and developing every person’s individuality and unique potential in a collaborative therapeutic relationship. With over thirteen years of experience as a practising Psychologist, she has worked extensively with children and adults. Kritzas is passionate about creating innovative platforms for individuals to express themselves and is the creator of a children’s board game, SmartHeart®, which aims at developing emotionally intelligent kids. Kritzas has also worked within the corporate sector, providing seminars, trainings, and transformational Counseling to executives. Kritzas has been a frequent guest on radio and contributed to publications such as Gulf News, Khaleej Times and The National.

Dr Saliha Afridi (Clinical Psychologist, Managing Director at The LightHouse Arabia & Co-Creator of SmartHeart®) and Christine Kritzas (Counselling Psychologist & Creator of SmartHeart®) are both practising psychologists at The LightHouse Arabia in Dubai.

About The LightHouse Arabia:

The LightHouse Arabia is a community mental health and wellness center providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples and families. Located in central Dubai, The LightHouse brings together an international team of licensed psychologists and psychiatrists offering a range of treatments. The LightHouse is also home to the Raymee Grief Center, which provides free grief support services to anyone living in the UAE. Dually licensed by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Community Development Authority (CDA), The LightHouse was founded in 2011 by clinical psychologists Dr Saliha Afridi and Dr Tara Wyne, whose shared mission and vision is to make the region happier and healthier.