Having a mini IT fast can be a blast – for you and your kids! I did it 3 years ago and am still going strong. It’s worth a try!
Three years ago, I had a part-time job, I was also running my own business as a Life Coach, enabling frazzled mums to thrive. I was mum to an 8 year old and a 6 year old at that time. I had been married for 10 years. I am a daughter, sister and a faithful friend. I was Trustee of our village Playgroup and I love horse riding and off-road motorbiking in my spare time. I try to keep fit and make healthy food choices for me and my family. Why do I share this? Because I am busy. Busy doing what mums do – juggling competing priorities and constantly making decisions about how I spend my time. I get it right sometimes and spectacularly wrong other times. You could say – I am normal.
Technology is enabling us to achieve so much more on a daily basis. We can shop from our sitting room to stock our wardrobe, the kids toy box and our food cupboard. We can check our work emails when we are at home and view our friends’ holiday photos. We can wish them a happy birthday without posting a birthday card, arrange to meet a friend without speaking to them and listen to a TED talk while we’re cooking supper. We can find a new food recipe to cook with the ingredients we have in our fridge, without opening a cook book. We can speak on the phone whilst we are driving the car. The options are endless, but what about the effect on the way we engage with our children?
As my two have got older they have become more independent. I have always seen encouraging independence as an important aspect of my role as a parent. As a toddler, encouraging them to put their shoes on themselves as soon as they are able, handing them the flannel to wipe their face themselves, rather than wiping it for them after a meal, but what I hadn’t anticipated was what I would be doing as they grew more independent. Mostly, my two adore playing together and will often go off and mess about with something. They are used to amusing themselves. I used their independence to check my work email, to go on Facebook, to plan an elaborate meal, to clean the kitchen, to fold up the washing……I was not intentionally engaging with my children.
I heard a talk on stress management last year and I learnt that my ability to multi-task is likely to be having a negative impact on the quality of my relationship with my children and my health. I love multi-tasking and am proud of my ability to handle many things at the same time – it feels good – but, actually, it is not.
Three years ago, I decided to have an ‘IT fast’ between the hours of 3.15pm and 7.00pm during the week. I decided to intentionally pursue connection with my children instead. Putting this boundary in place has had a positive impact on how we engage and strengthened the quality of our relationship. I do not check my work email, I do not go on Facebook, I do not go off and cook an elaborate meal which takes 2 hours or clean the kitchen.
When my kids come home from school I make a cup of team sit with them as they eat their snack. We chat. Or I listen and they chat. They laugh. I laugh. I ask them what they’re going to do now. They love it when I watch what they’re playing on the IPad. They love it when I sit on the sofa with them and watch The Simpsons or Horrid Henry. They love it when I sit on the floor and attempt to create something with Lego. They love it when I help to dress Barbie or brush her hair. They love it when I do some face-painting on them, a tattoo on their arm or paint their nails. And what they love best? That I am giving them my full attention. I am not distracted. I am not cross when they interrupt my train of thought or email or the text I am trying to write. They want to pursue connection with me and our relationships are stronger as a result. I get to hear about school, we get to complete homework and spellings, I get to hear when they’re happy or sad or frustrated or disappointed. I am ready to listen, with both ears. I may do some jobs, but I am willing and ready to be interrupted and to put them first.
How much time are you actually spending each day being fully present with your children? What steps can you take to intentionally engage with them more? A few suggestions you could try:
- Set a period of ‘IT free’ time each day, either for just you or for the children as well
- Ask them what they’d like you to do with them
- Put your phone on silent for a period of time and stop checking it
- Have an ‘IT free’ room in the house. Choose to spend time in that room completely un-plugged
- Go out on a walk with your children. Talk about what you see around you
- Take your children out for ice-cream or a cookie and just ‘be’ with them
- Have a snack in the garden instead of inside, make something mundane just a bit different
Give it a try and see what happens!