Unplug & Reconnect with Family
In our “crazy busy” lives, filled with smart devices, I worry that parents will forget to get down on the floor and play with their kids! It’s so easy to hand your youngster a smart screen to occupy their time and attention. While making dinner, folding laundry, washing dishes, and straightening up, electronic gizmos keep kids out of the way. The problem—these games suck you in, but they don’t spit you out. They pull you down a rabbit hole that goes nowhere.
While the little ones get drawn into games, parents get seduced by social media. Increasingly, boys, girls, teens and adults are spending more and more time attached to their screens. It’s an attention deficit epidemic. I hear kids complain that their Moms and Dads “sneak” looks at their email and Facebook pages rather than paying attention to them. No wonder kids steal time on their screens—monkey see, monkey do.
How many times have you seen families at restaurants looking at their devices, rather than talking with each other?
So why is playing with your kids so important?
A 1986 study in a poor neighborhood in Jamaica, divided 129 young children into three groups. One group received a weekly visit from a coach who encouraged parents to spend more time playing with their kids, another group received a kilogram of milk-based supplement and the third group received nothing. The study lasted two years, but the researchers have been following these individuals over the last 28 years. The big win—the kids whose parents played with them did better throughout their childhood, on IQ tests, had reduced aggressive behavior, and as adults earned 25% more per year than the kids that didn’t receive the home visits.
Other studies demonstrate similar findings. When parents connect with their children, foster a warm, trusting attachment, and nurture a positive, open atmosphere at home, kids score high in non-cognitive skills. These competencies include persistence, the capacity to follow directions, sustain focus on a task, and cope with frustration, ambiguity, and disappointment. These psychological abilities are necessary ingredients for a successful adult life.
Today, parents tend to focus on helping their kids build knowledge so that they can be at the front of the pack. They stuff them with facts—like learning the alphabet and arithmetic before they can string together sentences. They favor activities. They want their children to feel competent and capable. Participating in a swim, soccer, or baseball team can build confidence and nurture a work ethic in an enjoyable activity.
Knowledge, physical confidence, and teamwork are all worthy accomplishments. But in the pursuit of excellence and confidence, don’t forget the other important elements of a happy childhood.
Make sure to sprinkle daily and weekly life with the following elements:
- Hang out with your children. Play board games, hide-and-go-seek, build Lego fortresses, make tea parties for stuffed animals and dolls, read books together, and go on adventure walks.
- Create device free family time every day, not just once a week. Turn off every screen, including your smartphones!
- Get active. Go on bike rides, play catch, basketball, or kick around a soccer ball. Don’t focus on helping your kid improve their skills! They already get a big dose of that everywhere else. Focus on connecting and having fun.
- Communicate. Listen, ask questions, smile, laugh, dance, sing, and roll on the floor.
In other words, have fun together!