Walk With Me

When was the last time you sat through an entire dinner, car ride, movie… conversation with your kids without looking at your phone, or scrolling through your social media sites. What about sending or responding to a quick text? We all do it. I think in our minds we think we are only disrupting The Moment for a brief second or two, and so really, what’s the harm? What if you added up all of these seconds or minutes and added them on to the end of a day? Would you have an extra 10 minutes to listen to your child tell you a story? Maybe it might give your son or daughter an extra 5 minutes to really tell you what they were thinking when you asked them how they did on the math test they had been really worried about. Its real engagement that is slowly eroding away every time we interrupt ourselves, or allow our children to be interrupted with the many digital distractions at our fingertips. I know that sometimes for me, I get the best one on one time with my tween when he and I sit in the car in the driveway after school, before hopping out to our distracted, plugged in lives waiting for us inside the house. He shares more genuinely about how he is really feeling when I take just a few extra minutes, uninterrupted, look him in the eyes, and really hear what he has to say. likewise, I feel like I am at my best as a parent in these small moments, when I can offer distraction-free, meaningful advice or “mom wisdom” because I am fully present in the Moment. These are powerful brief minutes shared, as a mother and son, although fleeting, and I cherish them. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed as a parent trying to vie for the attention of my children against all the technology— that I put in front of them! There are just not enough hours in the day… and I’m constantly asking myself how can I make more of an effort to engage with my children, wishing for a way I can carve out more “un-plugged” time. I reminisce about my simpler “tech-free” childhood; playing board games with my sister, and cooking with my grandmother. I loved helping her make the most interesting meals that were a fusion of Montana ranch wife meets London city girl. It was in those times, those beautiful uninterrupted moments, that we would have some of the best conversations. I learned  as we chopped and boiled and baked about who I was, where I came from, my heritage. Mostly, these moments helped shape my image about myself and my value. A a child, it was important for me to feel like I was worth talking to purposefully, and without interruption, by those people in my life that were important to me. Our children deserve this same kind of engagement, from us, not from their online digital community. If you find yourself struggling to connect meaningfully with your children day to day, in the busiest moments of life, when there are so many distractions pulling you away from what is important; take a moment and make a list of activities or places that you could find a way to have even just a few minutes of meaningful engagement with your child. Here are a few of my suggestions to help get you thinking:

-Sit in your parked car. Turn off the radio and put down all cell phones, ipods, tablets, etc.

-Take a walk with your child. It will get you both moving, and the endorphins helps clear your mind and open you both up to meaningful discussions.

-At the dinner table. Just like adult dinner dates, have a dinner date with your child. Make it a tech-free zone, leave the phones off the table, and make sure to focus on eye contact and the art of listening as well as talking, which a mouthful of food can really help us all practice that skill!

-At bedtime. A good old fashioned tuck-in. No matter the age of your child, I guarantee spending a few quality minutes sitting on their bed together chatting about their day, can do wonders for your connection with each other, and also open the lines of communication between you for bigger life topics , but you don’t always know how to work them into daily conversation. Most if us lay in bed and let our minds wander before we nod off to sleep, kids are no different. This time can become your special standing date. Each night, meeting back up for those few minutes to really talk about your child’s concerns, fears, triumphs, how to handle a tough situation, etc.

These are just some great character-building opportunities, what ways can you come up with to add to this list?