Rachel Macy Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author of “Hands Free Mama” and “Hands Free Life.” Her attempts to let go of what doesn’t matter began when her daughters were young and she realized she was missing so much of their lives because she was distracted by email, the phone and outside commitments. She started her journey to become “Hands Free” with ten minutes a day of attempting to stay present and connected. She found that over time her desire for this time increased and her connection to her daughters did as well.
It used to be that parents were the only ones distracted by the ping of emails, texts, and phone calls. Now that so many kids seem to have smart phones, they too are distracted by the constant “urgent” pull of notifications, SnapChat streaks, and Instagram updates. The more and more electronically “connected” we are to others in cyberspace, the less connected we can become to those in our physical realm. A recent study correlated the rise in depression to the rise in teen social media consumption. The Child-Mind institute says, “Some experts see the rise in depression as evidence that the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated.”
Rachel offers some great suggestions for parents to make sure they are available for connection with their children. One of the key first steps is to create some daily “hands free” time. Are there times you can agree on as a family to not use (or even have available) electronic devices?
Some of the most crucial times for face-to-face connection are:
- First thing in the morning and right before bed
- During greetings and departures
- At mealtimes
- While driving
- During exercise
- While volunteering
Stafford recommends putting boundaries around these times and holding that space for genuine connection with those in your presence as opposed to those in your digital world. If we lead by example, our children can follow. We can guide them toward a more genuine connection with others and allow them to exercise their communication muscles in a positive way.
You may wonder what difference ten minutes can make. It is so easy to brush off a few minutes at a time. But the problem arises when you are busy checking the news while sipping your morning coffee and your daughter walks in to make her breakfast. She doesn’t want to interrupt, so she decides to check her Instagram feed. When you realize you could talk to her for a few minutes before she takes off for school, you look up from the computer to find her nose buried in Instagram. And round and round we go. So we have to start somewhere. Even if you only make the kitchen a digital free zone, you may find yourself with ample opportunity to catch up with your uber-busy children. The laughter and stories at the dinner table and perhaps even the breakfast table can return. We can be “those parents,” you know, the ones whose kids know they care and desire a relationship with them? Yes. Those parents. It starts with ten minutes a day.