With the explosion of choices in every aspect of life of late and hence very few common and shared interests, it has become practically impossible to spend quality time together as a family. Especially with teens who prefer to spend time either locked up in their rooms surfing the internet & social media or in hanging out with friends. The situation isn’t too different even with the case of parents who are constantly distracted by either work or leisure related smartphone usage.
A recent research conducted by Brandon T McDaniel, an assistant professor at Illinois State University for human development and family science, studied 170 households having two parents and found that parents’ use of technology such as checking smartphones for text/whatsapp messages and app notifications is distracting them during the time spent with their children. McDaniel terms this phenomenon “technoference” (mix of technology and interference) and suggests that this is associated with behavioral problems in children.
Spending quality time with children
As a parent, it is incumbent upon you avoid the possibility of such behavioral problems and ensure that you spend time together to strengthen your relationship with your children. Even if you find no common pursuits that you can engage in together, one can find ways to keep in touch and spend time together. Even more important than what activities that you find yourselves doing, is how you schedule that time keeping in mind her mood and attitude. The end result should be such that instead of finding wards who are sulking at the prospect of being taken away from their routines, they should be looking forward to it.
Eating meals together is a good way to start; you must have heard of the saying, “Families that eat together, stay together”. Sharing a meal at dinner time or breakfast can create avenues for communication via regular updates in each other’s life. Of course, for this to happen one must avoid all distractions such as TV, newspaper, mobiles etc.
Another way would be to try your hand at something that your children enjoy but you particularly don’t; for instance play video games together or treating him to an event/activity of his choice.
To make family time a lasting ritual, attempts must be made to set aside a particular day of the week or month to spend time with the entire family.
Typical communication errors that impede quality family time
As mentioned, the how is probably more important in determining whether or not the family time becomes a permanent and continuous feature of your family life or a series of one-offs. Communicating with your children, especially teens is something that needs to be considered carefully and one should avoid making mistakes that causes the opposite effect of the intended one when trying to reach out and strengthen family bonds. Let’s consider a few scenarios that come in the way of good communication between you and your children, especially teens.
Scenario 1: Your teen is undergoing some sort of relationship issues such as a breakup with a friend or got ignored or passed by for a get together with friends.
Typical response: You tell her to get over the breakup by finding another friend or in the latter case ask her to shrug it off about being ignored as that is a petty problem and not such a big deal.
Effect: The aforementioned response will only make her think that you don’t care very much for her since you are not able to make an effort to understand why the relationship issue is affecting her so much and what she is going through.
Scenario 2: Your child is narrating an incident that was particularly upsetting for her.
Typical response: You make unnecessary comments even when she is narrating the incident and indicate that perhaps it was her fault to get into that circumstance.
Effect: Your child will become distant as you did not want to hear her side of the story before passing comments. She will tend to feel isolated too.
Tips for better communication with your children
Listen attentively when your child is is trying to communicate. Resist the temptation to respond immediately based on your preconceived notions of what is being communicated and reflect on what she is saying to better understand what she is saying.
Treat her with respect and do not dismiss her concerns as being petty or not worthy of being upset about. Instead try and ask her questions to understand exactly her concerns and let her know that you are there for her; she will trust you more and you will get respect in return.
Stop the urge to lecture your kids and jump into solving their problems; instead let her think of solutions to her problems while you wait for her to ask you for help. You can in the meantime look at the problem objectively and rationally so that you can offer practical and helpful advice.