Being real is being authentic, who you are. Another part of being real is being honest with our children. Perhaps I am the only one on Earth who, in moments of parenting when the ship is going down, I escape with my phone to seemingly greener pastures. I just want to get away from the sibling rivalry, the piling laundry, the sticky floor or the pending bedtime routine. I may text a dear friend for a life line, see how email can save me or be whisked away into a newly remodeled bathroom on Pinterest. Essentially though, I am fleeing the situation. Lately, I have started to verbalize my fleeing in the form of “I’m taking a break for a minute!” Or “This is too much for me, I need to get calm first so I can help you.” Or simply, “I’ll be right back.” It helps to serve two purposes: 1) it helps me get back to a calmer state so I can actually deal with whatever situation is before me and 2) it teaches my kids that it is OK to go somewhere else to calm down sometimes, that we think better and solve problems more effectively when we’re emotionally well.
My smartphone is somewhat regrettably, with me most of the time. I strive to change this habit as I recognize the negative impact of always having a device come between relationships – especially the relationship with my children. But occasionally I think it is OK to use the phone as an escape device. What matters is talking about it, verbalizing how you’re using it. Stating something like, “I can tell this phone is getting in the way of being able to play with you. I’m putting it away” as well as “I’m texting Gran to see how she is doing” or, “I am checking the weather on my phone to see if we need a jacket” are all ways to lessen the phone-as-barrier to our relationships with our kids. Ultimately we want our children to be able to make good decisions about the high tech devices that they will have in the future. Having heard the decisions we’ve made in how to use them effectively will help them make those good decisions.
And when you’re not in escape mode, try to be fully present with your child. Verbalize how you are putting your phone away, storing the tablet or closing your laptop so that you cannot be distracted. And then really do it. Try to put the technology away a little more each day until you feel that your happy-medium has been met. Remember that no hi-tech device will ever be better than just getting down on the floor with your child and being a kid again yourself and playing.