So we live in the digital age and more relationships than ever are started in the virtual medium. Nothing wrong there, that's life today. However, there is one area in life where a virtual relationship won't work and where in fact living virtually is actually the biggest impediment to a real relationship - the one with your children. Technology is a tool that you can use to engage and interact with your child, but it isn't a substitute. We are all too quick to turn on the TV, park the kids in front of a video game or IPad/tablet or other gaming system, while we remain equally engrossed in our cell phones, computers, laptops, kindles, etc. Where is the real connection, that in person face-to-face bond? Where is the interaction? Where is the love? Our children grow up so quickly and it is a fact that their childhood will end too soon, in the "blink of an eye", so don't squander it or you will regret it and your life-long relationship with your children will be impaired as a result.
You might say this doesn't apply to your situation and you are fully engaged with your child, and I hope you're right. Here are some scenarios (culminated from other excellent parent blogs on the same subject that inspired this post), that if you find yourself relating to them, you're definitely missing it:
- You go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won’t notice that you are not paying attention to her game.
- You keep your phone turned on at all times of the day and allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child mid-sentence; always letting the caller take priority.
- You check your phone first thing in the morning … even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.
- You neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.
- You don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh” to give the impression you were listening.
- You get frustrated with your child when he “bothers” you while you are interacting with an electronic device.
- You sigh or roll your eyes when your child asks you to push her on the swing because you are busy on your phone.
- You use drive time to call other people instead of talking to your kids.
If you are engaging in some or all of these activities, you are missing out on your child's childhood because you aren't present with them, you aren't paying attention, and you are prioritizing the wrong things. If you continue to engage in these types of activities, it is a recipe for disaster. It is a fact that we live in the 21st century, a fact that we are globally wired at all times, a fact that your job is important and of course you must be responsive to the office. However, despite all those factors, at some point you must realize that you don't have to sacrifice your child’s childhood, your sanity, or your life.
There is a better way.
How to "Hold On" to your child's childhood!
Be intentional with your children.
Meaningfully connect with them.
Make them the priority when you spend time with them and be fully present.
Set distraction-free daily routines with them that are just for you and them and stick to them, i.e. reading before bedtime, or playing board games or puzzles during a family games night.
Look into their eyes when they speak to you and really listen to them.
Love on them, give them affection. Give a hug, a kiss, a pat on the head, hold hands, and/or a rub on the back. Loving affection speaks volumes to them at any age.
Let them laugh at and with you.
Tell them you love them for who they are, this is especially important as they become older and start finding themselves.
Ride bikes with them, throw a ball with them in the yard or park, and actively play with them.
Be grateful for them every day remembering they are a gift.
These are only a few examples of ways you can meaningfully and intentionally connect with your children and there are a zillion more. However, the real "key to the kingdom" is to remove the electronic devices/distractions when interacting with your children. Bottom line: Make the time with your kids count, especially since there is precious little of it, and stay focused on what matters most, them!!!