It’s time to…
Reconnect with your children
By Sandy McDaniel
In the past few years, parents have raised their eyebrows as I rant about the negative effects of current-day technology on our children. It’s difficult to see components of a storm when you are in the middle of it. Let’s look, once again, at my top concerns:
- When children see too much violence, they become numb to the reality of people being harmed, hurt or killed.
- Empathy is stifled. People stop caring about the feelings/life situations of other people – even family.
- Elderly parents are put into a leaky boat and cast adrift, invited to grow old without support or love.
- Two adults choose not to spend time talking to each other, so when their children begin leaving they’ve not built a foundation of friendship on which to continue to live.
- Social media is destroying the self-esteem, integrity and ambition in our youth.
What I am currently obsessing about is the degree of disconnection that is happening between parents and their children, between peer groups, between siblings, between adults. We can, at the drop of a hat, call or text someone with almost immediate response. That looks connected, and I have had one too many screwed up conversations via texting – where, had there been a conversation instead, we could have managed to clearly communicate our desires or feelings, and fewer misinterpretations would have happened.
There is no substitute for talking to someone. A part of connecting to someone is to feel their emotions infused in the words they choose.
Unless drama is introduced, detecting feelings (let alone the intended message) is not possible while texting. Looking into someone’s eyes, touching a person, both add to one’s ability to feel the other person as well as hear them.
Where children are concerned, face a child who is talking to you. If possible, bend down on their size level. Just listen! A teen says, “I want to go to the mall with my friends.” Instead of asking for the details, you erupt in a volcano of judgments about the child, their friends, statistics about what happens to teens who go to the mall. There’s no connection there.
- Child asks to go to the mall.
- Mother responds, “I’m not comfortable with that idea, and maybe some details would help. Who (are you going with)? What (time of day are you going and for how long)? When (what day are you going)? How (will you get there, and who is driving)?
The main thing is that you have a conversation about your child’s needs, your concerns, and then the fun part is that you get to decide whether to put another notch in your child’s lame-mom stick and do battle with your child if your answer is no.
Individual family members don’t share their feelings, thoughts, fears and ideas.Too many families don’t sit around the dinner table and talk. I was delighted when my grown son, Scott, told me about a conversation he had with his son when the two of them were in their hot tub. First of all, just the two of them were talking while soaking in a hot tub. Evan, who is 11, looked at the moon and asked, “How long do you think it would take to drive a car to the moon?”
Instead of “I dunno” and changing the subject, Scott asked, “What would we need to know in order to figure that out?” They got out of the hot tub and spent time looking up information on words I neither know how to spell or what they mean. They came up with a list of things they would need to know. What impressed me the most was the time they spent together seeking the answer to a problem they might never solve. That’s connection.
Tuck your young children in at night and sit on their bed to have a conversation. Take your teenager to TCBY for a yogurt treat and sit and talk to each other. Ask a child to help you empty the dishwasher and talk to them. Have a (name) night when that child goes to dinner with both (or one) parent. When your child comes home from school, have a snack prepared and sit down for a chat. Have dinner together with no media. Watch a movie together and talk about it.
If you want your children to talk to you, you must listen! Instead of judging something said, say, “Tell me more about that!” When you don’t understand what a teen is communicating, say, “I am hearing your words and I can’t seem to understand what you are saying; can you paint another picture with your words so I can hear you?” Connect! Connect! Connect!
If we don’t work on connecting to each other, we will become a massive group of islands who will be lost in the storms of life.
For more than 60 years, Sandy McDaniel has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of parentingsos.com, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. She may be reached at email@example.com; or go to YouTube:Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.
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