We live in a high speed, constantly moving digital world, where communication can get lost in the swarm of Insta-Vine-Tweets that your teens are undoubtedly flooded with on a regular basis. In this world parents can have a hard time keeping up with their kids, let alone staying connected with them.
I work with teenagers in the Bay Area and see constantly how difficult it can be for them and their parents to feel connected at home. Through my experiences I’ve assembled three tips that should help to slow things down at home and strengthen your relationships with your kids.
Examine your Schedule: What Can You Cut Out?
Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalm 46:10 (NCV)
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
One of the biggest practicals God gives us for stress relief is by taking some time to be still and reflect on what’s important. Taking time every morning to think through our lives, our relationships, and our priorities is probably one of the most important things we can integrate into our daily life.
In 2003, Jim Collins pioneered (online, anyways) the idea of a “Stop Doing” List, which essentially promotes the idea of cutting out things from your schedule that are unnecessary, superfluous or redundant in order to make you more productive and less anxious. When it comes to family, it’s tempting to want to cram in every activity, every game, and every event possible in the spirit of “family building.” Try cutting out some of the things that aren’t really adding much value to your family’s closeness, and focus more on having great conversations at dinner times and planned family outings.
Buy Less Stuff
As a recent CNN article points out, many parents fall for the trap of purchasing more things in an attempt to build better memories at home. The authors, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, describe the fallacy:
Our research team recruited about 200 parents and asked them about their activities on the previous day and to rate how much meaning and purpose they experienced during each of those activities.
Overall, parents felt that the time they spent with their kids was quite meaningful. But parents with more income and education reported less of a feeling of meaningfulness than those without so much money.
Why is that?
Research shows that having a lot of money changes people’s way of looking at things. Because money allows us to get whatever we want, it reinforces our desire for independence. And as any parent knows, wanting to be left alone to do your own thing is not perfectly compatible with parenting.
Resist the urge to bring more and more material things into the home, and try stripping things down to basics. Have regular family nights that don’t include electronics, expensive trips, or things along the same vein. Try incorporating interesting discussion topics and games like charades or Pictionary, which are high on laughs and memories and low on elaborateness.
Combat the Phone Addiction
The smart phone has become a staple in a teenager’s life; it tends to become an addiction for them, and an obstacle in the way of creating closeness in the family. Though being accessible at all times has its benefits, having an infectious, portable distraction can make it tough to generate family conversations and live in the present.
Another CNN article describes this conundrum, and details stories of parents of kids who can’t get their faces off their 4 inch screens. They offer several ideas on how to work with a fast paced mobile family:
- Putting all phones in the center of the table during dinner time
- “Tech time out” – take one hour a day where you and your family put your technology away
- “Interval training” – 30 minutes on with cel phones, followed by 30 minutes off
- Cut phone usage after data cap has been reached
These are all helpful strategies, but it’s important to remember that the goal is not to punish your kids for being hooked on technology. Rather, it is to inspire them by how much better a close, moderately paced family can be.