One of the biggest challenges facing my clients–and quite frankly, most of us–is time management. Family time is often the area that suffers and needs the most attention and adjustment. Spending time with one’s family is essential. It is in these moments that we share ideas and feelings, note upcoming events and, most importantly, model good social skills. With the lazy days of summer coming to a close, and the school year beginning once again, it is a good idea to focus on how we can better manage and enhance our family time.
I would like to address the giant gorilla in the room from the start. Technology, which makes life easier in many ways, often wreaks havoc on our family lives and social relationships. Recently, I had a lunch date with an out-of-town friend whom I had not seen for over a year. I was so excited to get together with her! As soon as we met at the restaurant, I turned off my phone, wanting to focus my full attention on my friend and on our conversation. After a few minutes of watching my friend texting, checking her emails, and taking calls, I suggested that she should consider shutting her phone, showing her that I had shut my phone already. Her response was that it made her very uncomfortable to have her phone turned off for any period of time. She did not want to be out of touch, “just in case.” I have to say, it was disconcerting to see her get so agitated at the thought being “out of touch,” but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that this is a very common problem. Many people feel agitated at the thought of shutting their phones. This reminded me of one of my clients who recently told me that the first thing she does when she wakes up is check her texts and emails. We are losing our ability to interact with one another in the most basic ways due to overuse of technology.
If the art of conversation is becoming a thing of the past, how will our children learn this important skill? Speaking, interacting, understanding social cues, and becoming more confident in social settings are all skills that begin at home. Modeling these skills is part of good parenting. Setting aside “technology-free” time is a good way to exhibit good communication skills, such as paying attention and listening carefully. Such skills are essential for all of us, and are particularly vital areas of growth for our children. Technology-free time means shutting off all cell phones, computers, and TVs. The amount of tech-free time spent should start with your own comfort zone, in the hope that time disconnected from these distractions will increase, as will the joy found in reconnecting with family.
A good way to teach a child about how to be social is by sharing anecdotes about your own social life. Bumping into an old friend whom you haven’t seen in years may make a great story. Tell about how you know this friend, where you first met, and how long it has been since you have seen each other. You may give ideas about the gist of the conversation you shared. Speaking enthusiastically about this experience will probably be interesting to your child. Firstly, he will see you as a friend to someone, which may be new for your child. It is also an intriguing concept for children to hear about old or lifelong friends with whom you can pick up right where you left off years ago. A story such as this one may be told in a few short sentences. Additionally, allow time for questions and encourage your child to ask about this social experience. By making time for conversations about your social life, your family may be encouraged to branch out socially as well.
If carving out time for conversation seems too challenging, the following ideas may be helpful. If you have a quick errand to run, consider taking one child at a time with you. Ten to 20 minutes alone with you can be invaluable for both of you. If it is not possible to take only one child with you, then taking a walk in your neighborhood may be a pleasant activity to share–no technology necessary. It is important to take time out of your busy day to speak to your children. These conversations should be inviting. Your children will look forward to this time spent with you. Having talks not related to chores and homework that must be done, or critical observations about how your child should do better are great ways to ensure future, enjoyable conversation. And by taking technology out of the equation, you are sending a powerful message to your child: “You are more important to me than anything else going on right now. Everything else can wait. Time is precious, especially time spent with you.”
Sariva Sklar, Certified Family Coach and Educator, brings her clients to successful outcomes in a relaxed setting. Her Social Skills Training Classes are forming now for the fall session. Private coaching consultations are scheduled by appointment.
You may reach her at [email protected] For more information, please check out Sariva’s website – www.smallwonderscoaching.com