Let me tell you a secret. I have been trying to get fit. You may…
Having a mini IT fast can be a blast – for you and your kids! I did it 6 months ago. It’s worth a try!
So I have a part-time job, I also run my own business as a Life Coach, enabling mums to thrive. I am mum to an 8 year old and a 6 year old. I have been married for 10 years and am a daughter, sister and a faithful friend. I am a 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 or arrange to meet a friend without speaking to them. The options are endless, but what about the effect on the way we engage with our children?
As my two children 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. 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 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.
Six months 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.
When my kids come home from school I make a cup of tea 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. 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 the email or the text I am trying to write. They want to pursue connection with me. 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. And if they don’t want to talk, we can just ‘be’ together. I may do some jobs, but I am willing and ready to be interrupted and to put my children 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? Try unplugging and see what happens!