As technological advances are coming at us with the speed of a runaway train, and many of those advances are becoming more and more necessary for the way we function, we need to prioritise and commit to fully present and tuned-in parenting in order to create a balance, and provide an emotionally secure and healthy childhood for our children that they otherwise will not have. It is a simple concept, although maybe not always easy. To begin, here are a few steps you can take to better control your screen habits and to become more fully present with yourself and your child:
- Each morning upon waking, before checking your phone or any other device, stretch and take a deep breath. Then allow a long exhale as you relax your body and any tension from your sleeping positions. Now think of one thing you can really appreciate about your child. Connect to the feeling it gives you or just the feeling of love for your little one. Place a hand on your chest over your heart and really feel that good feeling of appreciation and love. Really feel the feeling, physically. Allow yourself to smile before you move on with your day.
- Eliminate all screens from your bedrooms – and from your children’s bedrooms. The most obvious reason for this is that while looking at our screens we are preventing the production of melatonin, the chemical our brain releases that is necessary for sleep. Normally melatonin is produced as it gets dark, giving us a wind-down experience and readying us for sleep. When we stare at the blue light on our screens that production is delayed or interrupted. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep in order for the brain’s neurons to fully rest and ‘reconfigure’, and for the supportive glial cells to release all the day’s toxins completely so we can function most effectively the next day. For the same reason, children need between ten and twelve hours a night depending on their age, to ensure the necessary neural growth also takes place. So, for children’s developing brains, screen time at night is particularly damaging.
- Remove devices from the dining table – all meals should be without screens. Focus on each other and on face-to- face conversations. If you find prioritising this difficult, imagine yourself for a moment on your deathbed: will you be regretting that you didn’t spend more time checking your phone or not giving more focused attention to your child?
- When your children are speaking to you (i.e. when you pick them up from school), put your phone away. Make a habit of looking into your child’s eyes when having a conversation. To bring yourself into the present-moment awareness that this requires, take a deep breath and, as you exhale, focus your attention in your chest, sensing your heart in the centre of your breath. Place a hand on your chest if necessary, and feel the connection to yourself, and to your child.
- If you are waiting to meet your child, instead of checking your phone, place your hands in your lap and close your eyes for one minute. Take your focused attention down into one hand, noting the temperature and sensations in your hand and fingers. Do the same with your other hand. Then with both hands simultaneously. Then allow that attention to travel up your arms to your heart. Connect with the feeling of love you have for your child. Open your eyes. Hold the good feeling. Greet your child with it.
- Think of how you address a colleague or your doctor or bank manager. It is likely that you give them your full and present attention. Pick one time during the day when you commit to yourself to meet your child with the same full presence and focused attention. Your children will remember for the rest of their life that they were important enough for you to switch off technology and connect with and listen to them.
READ Intuitive Parenting by Jennifer Day