As a mother of three teenagers, raising children in the early 2000s didn't seem as digitally challenging as it is for young mothers of today. However, standard computer use did interrupt my kids youthful years, as I was constantly on my laptop while working from home.
The way we use electronics around our family can affect our relationships. Cell phones can make us feel more connected, but they also can distract us and our family from connecting with each other. How many times have you glanced at a quick text or social media while your kids are talking to you? I am guilty as charged. Not only do these screen habits make my kids feel unimportant, but worse, they develop the idea that not giving someone your full attention is an appropriate way to treat others.
In a 2015 survey by AVG Technologies, one-third of children reported feeling unimportant when their parents looked at their smartphones during meals or while playing together. Thanks to technology, more parents are able to work from home than ever before, ultimately allowing for more face time with their children. Yet, despite the increase of remotely employed parents, the quality level of engagement between parent and child is increasingly low, and even ersatz. Parents are physically present, yet less emotionally attuned. Our screen-obsessed youth are simply modeling the behaviors of their tuned-out parents.
Let's unplug from our devices and prioritize engaging in face-to-face communication with our family. Here are some helpful tips for being 100% engaged with your children:
1. Make the most of carpool. When I take my son to school, he and I put our cell phones away, seizing the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation. This is valuable, uninterrupted time to hear about his day, provide advice, make plans, etc.
2. Setting boundaries. If you work from home, keep standard office hours. When your child comes home from school, you will be more engaged and ready to ask specific questions regarding his or her day. I have noticed that when I ask very specific questions pertaining to my son and his day, he really opens up and engages in the communication.
3. When your child works independently, you can work independently. Do you remember that phrase, "When the baby sleeps, you sleep."? If you need to work or use devices when the kids are home, do it when your child is working independently and not requiring your attention. Personally, I do my best work in the evening after dinner while my kids are working on homework or washing up to go to bed.
4. Block out time to be 100% unplugged. Whether it's reading, doing arts and crafts, baking, cooking, set aside a special time each day to be fully engaged in your child's development. Of course, manage expectations when you need to work, allowing your children independent play time and rewarding them for waiting patiently.
5. No electronics during meals, period. No devices during family meals. That is the rule. Sitting together with family, eating a home-cooked meal and talking to each other is priority number one, always making it a habit to engage and ask questions.
Above all else, kids -- no matter what age -- need parents affection, love and attention. Make sure you show this without distraction throughout the day.