By Whitney Blakeslee
In our world of social media, dozens of emails every day, and notifications buzzing on our phones every few minutes, it can feel tricky trying to be a non-distracted role model for our kids. To raise well-rounded, healthy kids, we need to be engaged with them though. Having an adult fully present can improve their mental health, and can even help with their overall wellness. Reducing your own distractions is a great way to start being more engaged. After all, if we want to raise children who know how to communicate and live in the moment, we need to be the ones to show them.
Here are some ways to make sure you are being the best role model for them.
Be Present While They Are Talking.
When your kids get home from school, this is often when they are most excited about the day and want to tell you about what they did. This is the time to be present and pay attention to what they say. It is wonderful for your child’s self-esteem when an adult truly wants to hear what they have to say and values their voice. Follow along with their stories and chime in when appropriate. Always have an open ear ready to listen. Don’t scroll through social media or one last work email while looking up to hear bits and pieces of the conversation. Put your phone in the glove box or another room if you need to break free.
Put The Phone Down.
Your cell phone is probably the biggest distraction keeping you from paying more attention to your kids. It is hard to stay engaged with them when your nose is constantly in your phone. Of course, there are times when you need to look at it, like answering an important text or checking your calendar. But when your kids want to have play time with you or they are telling a story, switch your phone to airplane mode and put it down. Your kids will notice you are making an effort, which is huge for their confidence and mental health.
Create Family Screen-Time Limits.
This is a family affair. It may seem impossible to find more quality time with your family between school, work, driving around town, and prepping for the next day. I bet that if you really look at it though, there are moments when you could cook meals or go on family walks if everyone put down their screens. While exact numbers are tough to pin down, it’s generally agreed that both adults and teens spend multiple HOURS each day on social media and non-work related sites. Reduce your TV, phone, and computer time as a regular habit so there is time for engaging and socializing with one another. Maybe start with screen-free dinners and eventually build up to screen-free evenings, and maybe even a full day on weekends! This is good for everyone’s mental and physical health.
Create New Hobbies Together.
Finally, think about some activities you can participate in together. This may be an evening walk after the dishes are cleaned up, learning how to cook or bake a special food, or practicing a new instrument or craft. On weekends, go on adventures in your city, escape for a hike, or just help your kids with homework while the TV and cell phones are turned off. It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters that you spend genuine, distraction-free time together as a family.
Here are a few of my favorite apps to help break the screen-time habit.
Space– This is an app for your phone as well as an extension for your computer. It simply gives you a small reminder to take a deep breath before launching the website you are visiting. That momentary break in the feedback loop is often enough to break the habit.
Moment– This app tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, and where you spend it. You have the option to set daily limits and reminders, which you might just need after you see how much time you spend staring at your phone!
Forest– This fun little app makes a game out of putting down your phone. You choose to set a timer, and as long as you leave your phone alone, you will grow a little tree! If you open your phone before time is up, your tree will wither and die. Eventually, as you grow more trees (time off your phone), you will have a beautiful forest. And my favorite thing is that as you collect your digital trees, they will plant trees in real life through an organization called Trees For The Future.
Now that you’ve finished reading this, turn off your phone and go talk to someone. Seriously, go do it!
Whitney is a personal trainer in Denver, Colorado and loves getting lost in the mountains as much as she loves lifting a barbell. When she isn’t playing dinosaurs with her four-year-old, she is in the gardening or has her nose in a book.
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