Many of us intend to be intentional about our parenting, but it can be challenging being generous with the face to face attention we give to our children. Our hurried and distracted lives can often get in the way of giving our children our undivided attention.
This world makes it harder each day to focus on the most important work we will ever do—parent.
Many of us value a playful and truly connected childhood, but childhood has been redefined by the world. Take heart because we don’t have to let their childhood be redefined when we can intentionally create the childhood we want them to have.
What do you find nostalgic? Skipping rocks, camping out under the stars, spending hours playing outside, or telling campfire stories? Create that life for them. We can light up our child’s life with love, faith, and hope. There is such a thing as a connected childhood.
I think we need to rediscover what we may have lost. What have we lost? I believe it is connection. It’s time that we go back to a more connected childhood where family and our faith is put first, but we must fight for it. In a world throwing screens and activities in our children’s faces every second it can, we must fight for a more connected childhood.
Remember, just because our lives can get filled with the rush of activities, there still may be connection missing. In order to grow a connected childhood, we need to get rid of the weeds of distractions and the constant wheels of entertainment in our children’s lives because a connected childhood can’t be put into a microwave and warmed up for 3 minutes. It is not fast food. It is not an amusement park ride. A connected childhood does not need to rush when it can soar on the wind. It is time that we pause and examine this season more closely so we have no regrets.
The Problem in a Distracted Childhood
It’s easy to only want to focus on the magical parts of childhood, but there are also hard lessons to be taught and learned by our children. These essential lessons will become their foundation for the rest of their life. Think about how many lessons you can teach them about living with integrity, pursuing love, making the right choice, valuing relationships, and leaving behind a legacy. It’s an awesome privilege and blessing in being able to parent. Our children are relying on us to teach them these important life-giving lessons. It’s not someone else’s job. It is ours. Embrace this role in your life, and know that what you are working so hard on instilling in your children matters.
Don’t Use a Screen As a Pacifier
This is a judgement free area because we have all been here at one point or another. We have allowed both ourselves and our children to be pacified by the comfort of screens. We must ask ourselves one question: When did connecting on our devices replace connecting with each other? I think that life has become harder than we thought it would become, and we have turned to screens as pacifiers. Even when life gets easier though, we keep turning to screens out of habit. Think about your intention. Think about your reason for turning to screens, and think carefully about how addictive it may be getting for your children.
A connected childhood should not look like our children staring at their screens instead of the eyes of their parent. Our car ride conversations should not be silenced and lost to our children quietly staring at their iPads. When our children are upset, we should not be appeasing them with the addictive salve of a screen. We shouldn’t measure our success as a parent as having a quiet or obedient child as we sit at a restaurant; instead, we need to have the bravery to help our children cope with life and deal with their emotions in a positive way instead of putting a screen in front of their faces whenever we don’t want to deal with something.
Let’s talk more to each other and grow our relationships. How will our children cope as adults and deal with life’s hardships if they are not learning how to cope with their frustrations and failures now? We need to step back and take a look at what we are doing. Are we giving them coping skills or a screen? Are we modeling communication skills and coping skills or have we given up in exhaustion? The very screens we are giving them are causing hyperactivity and restlessness. It may appear like a quick fix, but it’s just not worth it.
Read more from Face to Face Living here about how we can, “take liberal amounts of time off from screens and replace them with a healthy diet of hands-on, creative, and attachment oriented social behaviors”.
Try These Tips for a More Connected Childhood
Try out some of these strategies below:
1. It’s hard to connect when we are fighting with our children. Life will get filtered through our children’s lens, and they will not always know how to express their emotions in a positive way. Don’t wait. Be present. Don’t ignore their poor behavior hoping it will go away. Before it gets worse, give that redirection, cue to refocus, and model the positive communication and behavior they need. Are they not responding positively or obeying? Talk to them one-on-one quietly and tell them what they should be doing, remove them from their preferred activity, and take something of value away from them as a consequence. Have them sit it out and think about why it’s important to make the right choice. Talk to them when they are ready and allow them to now express their emotions in a positive way. Having issues that are getting overwhelming for you? Go talk to a counselor for strategies in handling your child’s unique needs, and bring them with you to the counseling session so you can work together on finding solutions and connection again. As you work to resolve conflict, you will find connection. Don’t lose heart. Get the support you need so you can have the connection you need again.
2. Encourage imaginative play each day. Make a fort, a stuffed animal show, or a ferris wheel because building in creative play connects us, inspires us, and allows us to hold on to those moments even longer. Give them space to use their imagination and play pretend. Play with your children. They do desperately need your attention, and even when you are tired, try to find the energy to play hide and seek with them.
3. Build in time for giving and maintaining more eye contact for a longer time with your child. Schedule uninterrupted time. This can be found at regular family meal times and day to day conversations. Read more about the importance of face to face gazing from Face to Face Living here.
4. Think carefully about how you are greeting them and saying goodnight to them each night. Make a point to add in words of encouragement, affirmation, and gratitude each evening. You are helping build their emotional intelligence each day. That’s a pretty awesome job in itself.
5. Let your child join you in everyday tasks and chores. Talk to them while you are doing these everyday tasks and show them how you do them. Connect over washing the dishes or putting them away. Connect over folding laundry and baking in the kitchen. As you connect in these every day tasks, they will learn to find connection in their tasks as adults.
6. Spend quality time together during your free time. Don’t rush them off every weekend to a babysitter. Build that relationship with them and find peace in spending time together. If you aren’t finding peace in your relationship, you may need to prioritize finding new solutions to handling conflict in your home.
7. When children feel safe and know what to expect next, they start feeling more connected. When they know they are not just heard but listened to, they start giving more respect. Give your children your listening ear and spend more time listening to them. Give them the structure and the routines they need, so they can connect and feel more connected.
8. There is value in also staying home and being still. Don’t always rush back and forth. If you are always running, you may miss out on presence. Don’t forget to give hugs, cuddles, and eye to eye contact throughout the day. Building that relationship with your child will often require engaging in conversations, play, and not over scheduling your life. If you are having a difficult time making this a reality, ask for more help and support from friends and family members, so that you can be more present.
9. NPR wrote about how our children are getting dopamine from their screens. Because of this, it’s very difficult to get them to stop after they start. You can view this article here. Just like we can get addicted to sugar, we can also crave screens even when they don’t make us feel better. My tip is to just remove screens as much as you can from your home so you don’t have to fight this battle. Get outside instead as much as you can. Make a list of all of the outdoor activities your family can try out whether it is hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, playing on an outdoor obstacle course, or camping. Make this list and schedule outside time each day and week as much as possible. The more they are outside, the more they won’t crave a screen. Children don’t need a TV in their room. They don’t need to be on social media. They don’t need to have phones. They don’t need to have access to an iPad. If you do allow an iPad, keep them in a hidden area that they can’t get to, so you can control when they have access to them. If you do allow a TV in any part of your home, keep the remotes out of sight until you allow them to have it. You can control how much they are on a screen. Be sensitive to what is happening in the brain when they are getting on the screens.
Looking for more tips? You can also read more about preserving your child’s innocence and childhood in my other article.
As you can see, a connected childhood takes time and work. It takes building a strong relationship with your child, being consistent, and making sacrifices to be more present. I hope this article helped to inspire you to become more present with your child while offering them a more connected childhood. I’m cheering for you.
Grateful you are here,