Family Fun or Family Numb?
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – SmileNotes
In my private counseling practice in north Texas, I often give children an assignment to draw a picture of their family. No further instructions are given except to draw their family any way they want as they see their family.
One that I received recently had the paper divided into four quadrants. The mother was in her section of the page communicating on Twitter. The father was shown keeping up with sports and watching CNN. The sister, a social butterfly, was shown updating her Facebook page and counting how many “friends” she had. And my client, a 4th grade boy, was drawn playing video games (which he’s allowed to play for hours on end). I commented that his family looked like everyone did their own thing and he said, “Yeah, that’s the way it is.” This is the same family that when they enter my waiting room immediately sit down and get on IPad or play a game on their phone app or other. When I greet them, only the parents even bother to respond. I have had to teach the kids that when someone greets them, they are to stop, look up and say “hi.” This family is numb.
So… can this family be changed? Yes and it’s ongoing as you read this. I’m gradually getting them to interact more and more. They must sit together at dinner with no electronic devices at all—can’t even answer the phone—that’s what message systems are for. All now have limits on the time they can be tied up with social media. They have been surprised to find more hours in their days! The kids turn in their phones before bedtime (so that there are no late-night, under the covers games or calls). And, at minimum, they do one two-hour fun family activity together that requires communication (not sitting silently together at a movie). Also, I have asked the parents to give each child special one-on-one time. Sometimes on Saturday morning the father will take the son for a donut treat while the mother takes the daughter grocery shopping. The next week-end, the father will be with his daughter and the mother with the son. As an only child myself, I know about–and greatly appreciate—that special alone time with a parent when you feel you are #1.
I guarantee you that if you will set and monitor limits on ALL social media/communications that you will discover more hours in your day. You will also have a FUN family that knows the best communication is always in person!
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.