When I was a child, I often remember family dinners, where it was a time to be with the family without interruptions. When the phone rang, my mother would yell, “No one answers that.” Now, as a mother, I find it very difficult to carry on a conversation with my children without them being connected to their cell phone and other electronic devices. They’re tweeting, face-booking, and Instagramming instead of being present in the moment as a family. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have many families who come to my office feeling very disconnected from their children and not knowing where to start. Children receive phones from the age of 8. I understand that as parents we have been scared by all the violence in schools, but I believe that when we give them cell phones too early in their lives, you are setting your child up to live in their own world.
It’s harder as a parent to really know who your child is talking to or messaging. It’s true that cell phones and computers are the style of the 21st century, but how can we embrace today’s culture and still have family dinners to connect with your children and really teach them the art of conversation and listening? Children need to be heard and seen. We can’t read body language texting them. Parenting is very hard work and does not come with a manual, and today’s world makes parenting even more difficult. Technology is wonderful and opens up many possibilities. My daughters are in college and I can Skype them and see her faces during our conversations. That makes me feel closer to them.
We can embrace cell phone use and continue to use family dinners and vacations to find a deeper connection with your child. Cell phones are very useful for locating your child and even resolving dilemmas. We can text them right away and be a part of their ever-changing tech world. As parents, we don’t want to be left behind, but we also have values we grew up with that help kids stay grounded and involved in family life. Families should continue to have game nights, movie nights, and outings. Families are an important part of society and make children feel safe. So let’s find a way to get involved in our children’s lives that doesn’t always involve technology. Parenting in the 21st century includes old values and the adoption of new ones.
5 Tips for a successful family dinner
1. Prepare meals together: Children are more likely to eat the food you prepare.
2. Have theme nights ie pizza night, breakfast for dinner.
3. Have a dialogue stick at dinner, so everyone has a chance to tell about their day.
4. Have a basket at the beginning of the meal for everyone to place their cell phones. (adults too)
5. Use dinner to plan your next family event and use calendars to show what’s coming up. Children will be more involved if they are involved in the planning.
These tips will help create a strong family bond that will stand the test of time and your children will pass on these strong family bonding skills to their children.