How To Help Our Kids Thrive In A World Dominated By Technology And Social Media by Loma Tai
Brought up in England, Loma has lived and worked in the U.S., U.K., Europe and United Arab Emirates over the past 22 years. She became interested in therapy while working as a lawyer, undertaking legal cases while not feeling fulfilled and decided to pursue her passion for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Loma draws on her own experiences of healing and awakening as well as a decade of integrative study, practice and teaching of transformational psychotherapies, life coaching, and facilitating individuals, couples and families towards a path of compassionate, conscious connection. She is passionate about integrating the paradigms and practices of modern neuroscience, Western relational psychology and Eastern contemplative practice and has provided onsite counselling and coaching in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates since 2013. She has helped hundreds of people work through personal conflicts by offering healing solutions which transform a client’s life and mind. The article below is a continuation from an article she wrote previously about the impact of Technology on our kids. Part 1 of the article can be found here, http://www.mindfulinthecity.com/2017/03/08/impact-digital-world-youngsters/
In my previous blog article, I talked about the damaging effect of excessive gaming on the minds of our children. I focused on how if left uncontrolled it can easily interfere with the healthy development of self-motivation, social relationships and increase isolation and anxiety. As promised I want to offer some ideas for parenting of our youngsters, which can help give them alternative narratives to adopt. Narratives that encourage their current and future selves to feel and believe they have meaning and purpose.
I think it is myopic to focus on sanctions and rewards to teach kids optimal behaviours. That is a simple and effective system, brilliantly used by gaming companies themselves to get our kids hooked on their games. But simply admonishing kids for playing excessively or setting simple rewards for ‘good behaviour’ isn’t going far enough in developing character and fortitude in a young person. I know that’s what I hope for my kids and I am sure it’s what you wish for yours too.
As parents, we can’t look to schools or internet and gaming companies to do our job for us. We have everything we need to help our families to thrive- it’s about reframing the way we look at the whole issue. I’d like to empower you as parents and ask you to think BIG for your kids. If you want your kids to have a successful and rewarding life, then it’s down to you to set the foundations for making this happen. You can do this. These are the aspects of parenting over which you have control. Everything else is outside our immediate control including changing the tidal wave of change that automation and technology has brought and will continue to bring. So, focus your attention closer to home.
It starts with you and me (I am writing this but I am just as responsible as the next person). We can’t ask our kids to give their whole-hearted attention and turn towards life unless WE stop burying ourselves in our phones, IPADs and lap tops.
We need to tell kids that there are plenty of opportunities to grow and connect outside of their virtual online selves and it starts with the relationship with mum and dad. This is the most important relationship of all because it sets the blue print for all other relationships in their life.
So, my first suggestion is as a family you sit down and note down how many hours are spent doing various activities during the day. In particular, focus on checking phones for messages/ use of social media and gaming. Include time spent watching TV and then other activities such as sport or other hobbies. Include family time; think about how much time is devoted to eating together, playing games, reading and talking together? It’s very revealing when you do it. If once you have written it all down you feel a bit resistant or react with defensiveness or if guilt creeps in, I would just NOTICE it without JUDGEMENT! I want you to know you are GOOD parents. The fact that you are reading this and doing the exercise is fantastic and shows you care.
After that’s done, assess which areas need a redistribution of time. How can you rebalance your family and individual times to make sure you do more positive stuff like family meal times, sport, game playing, engage in hobbies and socialising? Although shutting yourself in your room as a teenager is normal, parents of teenagers are right to force kids to come out to eat meals with their family or engage in family orientated activities on a regular basis including household chores.
Then comes the broader questions of which alternatives to the online world to go for? My first suggestion may appear simple but it’s a really effective thing to teach kids. Make your bed first thing in the morning! Why? Well research shows that although simple and mundane it represents the first successful act of the day and increases the chances of kids having a more positive can do attitude to their day.
Give kids errands to do around the house. It could be emptying the bins. I tell my school age boys to stack the dishwasher or load and switch on the washing machine and sometimes take the bins out. Getting kids to manage these real-life tasks is great for their self-confidence and problem solving skills. It’s similar to the bed making principle. If they can successfully complete such tasks it normalises their ability to self -care and be responsible. They become empowered active members of the house. I have learnt this through my own trial and error and now know this to be true.
Don’t be afraid to be unambiguous and clear with your children about the causal consequences and costs and benefits of their decisions. Research shows that self-control is much more important than self-esteem in building happy and successful young people. Self-esteem focuses on me. Whereas self-control, whilst including the self, also encompasses -by virtue of weighing up decisions- a more mindful approach to life which can’t help but involve other people.
Sport and physical activities such as dancing or drama are excellent ways of participating in groups, learning boundaries and understanding how the mind and body connected make a formidable team. It will lead to stress reduction as well as promote physical health. If your child doesn’t want to do something structured go out and take them for a walk or a cycle. Do some voluntary work with your kids. If you have a charity that you support that’s great, but if you want to keep it simple, find elderly people in your neighbourhood and have your kids bake some biscuits or cake and take them round.
Perhaps the single most important antidote to the online world is the art of conversation. Teaching our kids to have conversations with us, and discover how being listened to and paying the compliment of LISTENING to others is a wonderful way to feel appreciated, loved and above all SEEN. Conversations could be about school, friendships, current events or even silly topics. I have a stack of cards at home called a CHATPACK for kids. Sometimes I will take a card out over dinner and ask questions like ‘If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take 5 things with you what would they be and why?’ Try it at home and notice how it can excite and engage a young and curious mind.
Reminding your kids that to succeed in life you have to take one step back to take two steps forward is a great MO for them to learn. Find role models whose life stories are inspiring, these could be grandparents or famous people. Just engage, show some interest and affection. You and they will see the results. Their propensity to get addicted to online world is reduced because you have helped them make their real-time worlds so compelling.
Loma can be contacted via her website: http://www.mindfulinthecity.com/therapy/