Balancing Quality Time with a Digitally Mobile World
Weekday mornings for families are often action-packed. Parents juggle getting children — and themselves — ready, from making breakfast to preparing snacks and lunches and making sure everyone has everything before they head out the door. At the same time, emails, texts or phone calls may take yet another sliver of your attention.
Being mobile and connected at all times has its perks, but it also makes escaping calls and emails from work or other responsibilities more challenging. The instantaneous nature of today's communication technology has expanded working hours beyond the usual 40 hours per week, and quick replies are expected. Parents often multitask — engaging in personal and professional relationships at the same time.
As you settle into your routine this fall, consider setting aside specific times of day when you disconnect from the mobile world to focus solely on fostering important connections with your children.
Morning commute and drop-off time
A school year start is filled with mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension as your children embark on adventures with new teachers and classmates. Help children prepare for the school day by talking about what each expects or hopes. Children are not always comfortable bringing up these topics, and if the morning is especially rushed or you are less available, children may keep thoughts and worries to themselves.
If mornings at home are too busy, the car ride or walk to school or the bus stop provides time for emotionally supportive talks. The morning commute can become a precious period of connection to help your child feel understood and supported before he says goodbye for the day. Simple conversations starters might be: "Who do you hope to play with today?" or "Is there something you'd like to do in school today?" These conversations can lead to other school-related topics that may be on your child's mind.
The reunion after school, whether right after school or after a parent has finished his or her workday, is an especially important time for young children. In fact, your child's first few minutes with you after school may be one of the most significant moments of her day. For you, it may be just another busy afternoon, but for your child, it is the first time she sees you after a school day likely filled with ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, and interesting or perplexing experiences.
Put away your phone for these few minutes and give your child your full attention. Questions such as, "What was your favorite part of the school day?" or "What was the hardest part about your day?" provide opportunities to seek your help and understanding, or simply share important parts of her day.
If you don't drop off or pick up your child from school, the first daily contact you have is still important. Carve out other special times of day for these valuable conversations. Use dinnertime, evening time or bedtime to provide your child with undivided attention, free from the distractions of mobile devices.
Talk about specific worries if you're aware of them.
Children, like adults, think about the things that worry them, even when they do not initiate conversations on their own. By setting aside specific times to talk with your child in a focused and connected way, you will learn more about his feelings about different experiences, enabling you to provide more attuned, meaningful and lasting support.
The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families.