We are being bombarded on a daily basis with too many guidelines, rules, ideas and thoughts on how to balance our lives. If we feel we are not meeting the expectations of the masses then these can create a strong feeling of guilt inside us.
You feel guilty that your kids are on their screens for too long
You feel guilty that you haven’t spent enough time with your kids today
You feel guilty that your kids are eating the wrong type of food
You feel guilty because your kids are not active enough
Rather than focus on all the things you may not be achieving with your kids, or focusing just on the amount of time they are spending on a screen, reprogramme yourself to focus on those things which you can be proud of.
When we are super focused on the negative we can miss the positives. You form an ability to blank out experiences which do not fit with your expected normal.
You have the choice of being a cup half empty, or a cup half full type of person.
Below is an example.
When you stop at a traffic light what do you say to yourself?
Half empty: “Red again, these lights are always red! Why am I so unlucky?”
Half full: “Red, annoying but at least I am near the front and can see the road ahead,”
When the traffic light is green what do you say to yourself?
Half empty: Nothing. Why would you, the light has not caused you any problem so why would you give it any thought?
Half full: “Green, yeah, I get to go straight through, I love it when they are like that.”
By consciously making a comment when things are going well for you, and making a more negative situation feel a little more positive, you will make memories, ones which you can reflect on later when you find yourself in similar situations in the future. This provides a much more balanced view of the world.
Are the traffic lights truly always red?
Tonight, when you see your child, listen to what they tell you they have been doing, note all the great things they have done, which did not involve using a screen. Take special note of any physical activity they have been doing.
Most of our screen guilt has nothing to do with the time our kids are on the screens, it’s what we feel they should have been doing instead.
They should be more social
Did they join you for dinner?
Did they acknowledge you when they got home from school?
Did they look up when you put your head round their door?
They should get outside more
Did they walk to check for post?
Did they walk to school, or to catch the bus?
Did they walk over to their friends?
Did they have PE at school?
They should have other interests
Do they play more than one type of game?
Do they watch different types of programmes?
Do they make their own videos or online media?
Do they have any other things they do which do not include a screen?
I doubt you could answer yes to all the above, but I am hopeful you answer yes to some. Look for the action or response you are looking for. Lives are changing and rather than battle over screens, focus on the outcome you are looking for.
If looking up and acknowledging you when you walk in the room is important to you, then focus on that. Let them know that this response is expected whatever they are doing, reading, drawing, talking to a friend or looking at a screen. The screen is not the issue, the lack of acknowledgement is.
So to gain some balance in your life, rather than focus on controlling your child’s screen time, look to focus on the two main health concerns for children these days.
Kids not getting enough sleep or physical activity each day.
3 – 6 year olds = 10 -12 hours
7 - 12 year olds = 10 to 11 hours
Teenagers = 8 to 9 hours
Recommended physical activity – at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day.
With a change in focus, or the identification of the real issue, you can ask your child to work with you to solve the big problem, rather than focus on a specific aspect of the problem, i.e. screen use.
Parent: “I’ve noticed that you seem real tired in the mornings”
Child: “I don’t always sleep very well”
Parent: “How come?”
Child: “I find myself playing games, or talking to my friends and don’t realise the time”
Parent: “It can be so easy to be drawn into having one more go, or not wanting to say goodbye, hey! Is there a way I can help?”
This conversation could go many ways, the challenge for us as parents is not to jump straight in with our solution or judgements. You will get more buy in and cooperation if your child feels they have a say. Screen use, or the control of it, will possible be part of the solution, but if it can be identified by your child, rather than you, the solution is more likely to work. A similar conversation could be had around activity.
Before agreeing on a solution try and work out if your child is a moderator, or an abstainer.
Moderators are able to have access to something and can make the choice to access a bit at a time. E.g. they can have a bar of chocolate in the house for more than a couple of hours.
Abstainers prefer to have no access to something, so the choice has basically been made for them. E.g. They know that if the chocolate is there, they would eat it, so they are better off not having it in the house. They can still have chocolate, but it would take some effort to go and buy it.
Once an action plan is agreed, if you try to control a moderator they will get annoyed with you if you interfere. Your moderator child should be trusted to switch off their light when they feel tired. They should manage to stop what they are doing to go and have an exercise break when needed.
If you don’t direct an abstainer then they will just push on, no guilt at all. They may complain when you remind them of the agreement but will usually get over this quickly enough. You will probably need to switch off their light at bed time and prompt/push them to carry out some exercise.
The challenge is to focus on what is actually happening in your house. Working out what the balance currently is for your family and deciding on the best way of supporting your kids to balance their health needs.