All of us have been there and all of us are guilty of it. You’re at the park with your kid, everyone is playing happily, and you take the moment of downtime to check up on your Instagram feed. As you’re scrolling through friend’s pictures, your little one is calling out, “Mom! Look at me!” and jumps off the playset. You missed it because you’re still looking at that really important update on Facebook, Katie from college who you haven’t seen in 8 years is pregnant! With twins! Surely this is important and requires your immediate “Like” and congratulatory comment. Right? Well, no. It really, really doesn’t And guess what? You just ignored your little one who called out for your attention.
Now I know, you’ve probably seen this kid jump off this playset a million times. And I know, the kids are always crying out, “Mom! Watch this!”, or “Mom! Watch that!” which can get exhausting. But this is the sad, hard truth of it all. Someday, they won’t be asking for your attention. Someday, they will grow up and you are going to struggle to get them to open up and talk to you. Teenagers are notoriously moody and suddenly, before long, talking to Mom and Dad isn’t cool anymore. They look to friends for validation. Not you. And that’s hard.
We all need to work harder to get off our phones and give our little ones more of our undivided attention. So what can you do? For some parents out there it isn’t so easy. Some of us are full-blown phone addicts and we end up scrolling through our newsfeed without even realizing how we got there! The fact of the matter is that being behind a phone screen all the time sets a bad example. When you’re on your phone all the time, especially around your kids, you’re not fully present in the room. You’re occupied. Even if you’re “listening in” while you look at your phone, it is still divided attention. You’re still not present. And it is critical that we start being more present for our kids.
Distracted parenting is a real thing. Learn to put your phone down. If you are having a hard time breaking the phone addiction know that you have the power to change this. You can take steps to become more present for your kids. Here are some helpful strategies that can help you break your phone addiction and be more present for the little ones in your life.
When that time happens is entirely up to you, but make sure it’s a solid chunk of time. We’re talking like 3 hours. From 9am-11am, if you’re at home with your toddler, keep off the phone. Or maybe from 3pm-6pm when your kid is home from school, keep off the phone. Perhaps from 6pm-9pm when your preteen is done with homework and you’re all eating dinner and winding down for the evening, keep off your phone. Choose a window of time when you are with your kids and give them 3 hours of your undivided attention, then build from that. Increase the amount of time you’re off your phone for. When you hear that buzz from your pocket–ignore that. It can wait. Check it later.
Having the phone in another room can help prevent you from checking it over and over throughout the day. It doesn’t cut you off from using it, but you do have to stand up, walk to the designated location, and check that message or send that text. You’re more likely to keep it quick and continue going about your normal activity if getting to your phone becomes a little bit more of an obstacle. If you have teenagers with phones, this is a good practice for them too. Keep all the phones in a designated location. Make sure your husband does it too! This designated phone space will keep distraction out of the living room, or dining room, or wherever it is that your family gathers for family time. Parking your phone, and all the family’s phones can help keep everyone’s minds off of the world of social media and more present for each other.
If you can’t keep your phone in your room, and going 3 full hours without a device is still too difficult, then remove apps that are serious offenders for distraction. I mean it. Remove your Facebook app. Or your Instagram app. Check Facebook and Instagram from your laptop at home when the kids are in bed. I know it sounds a little harsh and I know you probably have a dozen reasons for why you need that app on your phone. But try removing the app for a day, or a week, and see how you feel. If the world didn’t come to a crashing stop then I think you’ll be fine keeping the app off indefinitely. Tell yourself it’s for your kids which, in all honesty, it really is for your kids. You can do this. Delete that app.
We understand that sometimes you need to have your phone. Maybe you work off it. Maybe there really is a family emergency. Perhaps your family really, truly does have extenuating circumstances that require you to be connected and reachable at all time. However, I would challenge you to be thoughtful about how you’re using your phone. Are you taking a call from the pediatrician/work/your husband? Or scrolling through social media endlessly? Can it wait? Part of being a good parent is identifying problems as they arise and taking steps to solve the problem. Quite frankly, being addicted to your phone can interfere with the relationship you have with your kids.
Be mindful of the example you are setting for your kids. Model good relationship practices because while you might remember being at the park while you’re little one was happily playing, they might remember a mom who was just sitting on a bench with her phone not looking up at their little victories. More often than not, your social media life can wait. Your mom life is infinitely more rewarding. Trust us.