Technology has increased our ability to multitask – for our benefit or detriment. If we want our children to grow up media savvy, and to be able to manage the overabundance of media in their lives responsibly, then we have no choice but to show them how.
The only way to do this is by managing our own arsenal of smartphones, organisers and electronic gadgets. Or, put simply, by going offline from time to time and interacting with the people who matter in our lives.
Children need your time
This poses a problem to parents as children require a whole lot of time, focus, and attention – all in short supply in our multitasking lives. When our children pop into the study while we’re answering emails, searching for the latest prices on a new car and downloading a podcast at the same time, do we stop what we’re doing, make eye contact with our child and give her our undivided attention? Nine times out of 10, the answer will be no. Of course, this does nothing to build our relationship with our child.
Just as a child runs up to her parent after playschool, arms outstretched and with a great grin on her face, a cellphone rings and the parent takes the call instead of embracing her child.
Our inattentiveness can make our children feel invisible, and invisible children resort to negative attention-seeking behaviour.
This disrupts family life in very uncomfortable ways. Think tantrums, potty training regression, picky eating, not wanting to go to sleep, whinging, whining, and breaking things. Small children don’t have the words to tell
us they’re feeling invisible, so they act out instead.
I love you
Unplugging from technology, or going offline when we’re with our children, gives them a silent message that
we do want to be with them, we value our time with them, we love them, and they’re important to us − what better gift
can we give them than this?
Tips to connect with your children
If you want your child to value relationships with others, it begins with how you role model your relationship skills with her. One day we need to be able to say, “I dug deep in the early years, which is why I have a great relationship with my child today.”
- Make a date with your child to go out for a simple burger or play together at home. Put a set time aside and stick to it.
- Unplug while you’re on the date. That means switching off cellphones and computers and focusing only on your child.
- Play a game together. This takes the focus off both of you and onto something you’re creating together.
Children need focused quality time with their parents. The best gift we can give them is our presence – a big challenge for busy, multitasking parents. So pause, breathe and engage with your child.
And if you’re putting time aside to be with your child, make eye contact as much as possible, listen when they speak and engage them in conversation so they know that you’re interested in what they have to say.
Games to play
Keep it simple and be creative, she’ll love you for it. Remember, you only need to keep her focused for a few minutes at a time:
- Play a card-matching game, like snap.
- She’ll find it exciting to cook with you and baking is always a good option.
Place farm animals, plastic shapes, fruit, or even household objects like a hairbrush and toothbrush, into a duvet cover. Give your child a small torch and tell her to crawl inside and collect a specific item as you call them out one by one. You can even time her once she has the hang of it. She’ll get really excited when she comes out with the correct item and it will keep her busy for hours.