Relationships and parenting can be a major challenge for all of us. Between making sure
everyone is fed, clean, and checking on educational/work progress the emotional and social
aspects of life can get lost. Here are some quick tips on connection that you can start today.
Tip 1: Put the phone down.
I promise it’s not just the kids that are hooked on technology. Often times elementary kids are
focused on TV and games, but as we age not much seems to change. Beginning in middle
school (and sometimes earlier) I see a shift to communication via text and social media. Teens
seem lost without their phones and they really may not understand how to function without a
device of some kind. In-person conversation has gotten off track. What could be worse than
that? You’re on a device most of the time too! This is not a criticism, the truth is that I am right
there with you. Most of us can catch up on work from our phones or laptops and do so on a
regular basis, plus there’s the same social media and text pull from our friends.
How do we change the dynamic? Don’t ask kids and teens to do something you’re unwilling to
do. Take a 1-2 hour break around dinner time to prepare and eat together as a family. That
means everyone! I promise the technology will be there when you’re done and you might even
connect face-to- face.
Tip 2: Have actual conversations.
When was the last time you had a real conversation with your partner or child? Not just “hHow did
that test go?” or “What did you do today?,” but a real conversation. You know, thoughts, feelings,
and even dreams. For some this seems simple, but often I find families struggling to know
what’s going on with each other. What drives us and our ideas about the future, that’s a fun
conversation that elicits passion. Quick updates on the way to the next activity are what pass for
connection and finding about each other.
What would it be like to not have anything else to distract you? Imagine that you’re stuck in an
empty room with your family. No chores, friends, or activities to get in the way. Work at the
conversation, dig deep and share openly. Try not to give up when the conversation lags and
there is silence. Set the example for your children by modeling with your partner, the payoff is
Tip 3: Invest time in activities.
Finding things to talk about can be hard if you’re not spending quality time together. Sitting next
to each other watching TV when you’re exhausted from the day doesn’t count. Trust me, I tried
without success. Taking short walks together as a family, trying out a new sport or hobby, or a
game night could work.
I fully understand having a busy schedule and that many teens don’t want to go to a painting
class with you. Pick a day of the week and take 2 hours to try something new or 15 minutes a
few times a week. Do it on a schedule, and rotate who plans the activity. Have a budget outlined
or keep it simple and free. Finances don’t have to get in the way, but something always will if
you don’t protect the time and prioritize it.
If the quick tips are not enough get help! If someone in your family is struggling it can change
their ability to engage. Trauma, depression, and anxiety can cause disconnection and have an
impact on everyone in the family.
Sydney Dickerson, LCSW is a therapist in Austin specializing in trauma, depression, and parent
coaching. She works with children and adults of all ages, but most often sees teen girls
struggling with depression and anxiety or healing after trauma. She offers free phone
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