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1 year ago · · 0 comments

The real problem with phones and social media

This is real! Dating adults meeting online and only texting for weeks on end…no phone calls, late night talks, or face to face getting to know you. Middle and high school students now only text. Remember pulling the phone cord as long as it would go for privacy? Or hoping the “cordless” phone batteries wouldn’t die while talking? Staying up late pouring your heart out to your BFF or latest crush? This isn’t happening. I can’t help but wonder: what will be the impact on having healthy relationships in the future? Learning how to clearly communicate feelings and the innermost experiences of our hearts is SO needed.

Cell phones came on the scene fast, without rules or social “norms” to guide us. I recently found a campaign started by parents to urge them ALL to agree that cell phones won’t be purchased or allowed among their teens until freshmen year. Other parents lamented wanting to be able to reach their child in an emergency or if they needed to coordinate transportation after practices events etc.

The other issue on the scene with cell phone use and social media is cyberbullying.  Try taking a cell phone from a teen as a consequence and their head just may explode.  To not have a cell phone is social death…no invites, left out of conversations because they have no idea what happened online, etc. Cyberbullying used to be you had a weekend to recover from rumors or an evening free on a school night to have a reprieve. Now it can last 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. To insult someone you don’t just get ignored at school, you get blocked and excluded from group messages or social media. Blocked means you can’t communicate with them or see their posts…yet they can post about you for everyone else to see and join in mocking you. Or everyone else gets to talk and you are excluded from what’s going on.

 

So what can we do?

  1. Monitor cell phone use and make sure you are friends with your teens and have access to their password. They will be mad, yes. But if this becomes the norm and at an early age, it will lessen the blow. Remember worrying that mom and dad would pick up the phone or walk nearby and hear your conversation? Teens need this accountability.
  2. House rules: pick a time at least an hour before bed that all cell phones, laptops, etc are plugged in in mom or dad’s bedroom. (Hint: not the kitchen where they can get it once you’re in bed ??). Want to go to bed early? Make the rule it has to be in there when you go to bed or set an alarm for their curfew to go off and you can check on them.
  3. Have a set hour for “phone free” or technology free time. Guess what? Of the teens I work with when this is suggested they actually WANT it! Yes, teens are busy and independent but they still crave that relationship and connection. One family decided between 6 and 7 every night. Homework, talking, dishes or just reading together are allowed but no technology! (Parents…we have to too! No cell phones, Facebook, or your favorite show ?)

 

Technology isn’t going away. It’s making parenting harder, and more importantly, affecting our children’s healthy social and emotional development.

 

Challenge: sit down with your parenting partner, then your kids, and discuss how technology is affecting your family. Start with kids and teens by genuinely seeking to understand their views on how they are impacted by your (yep…mom and dads) technology use. Then seek to understand what’s important to them in having access to their phones or social media. After understanding everyone’s needs and concerns seek first in asking what rules or guidelines they suggest for your family. Why ask them? It shows you value their opinion but also when they have input you may be surprised that they want guidelines too AND you are less likely to have a teen tantrum.

1 year ago · · 0 comments

4 things your kids want to tell you but won’t

Like any good parent, you want to know what’s going on with your child. Oftentimes, when we ask them ‘What’s wrong?’, we see them get quiet, change the subject, or tell us what they think we want to hear, which can be incredibly frustrating! Whether you’re married, a single parent, a divorced parent, or remarried and trying to help co-parent, these are some things your child wants you to know, but it too afraid to tell you.

  1. You’re scary when you yell

Let’s face it, we’ve all lost our temper with our families. Sometimes it’s stress at work or marital conflict, or maybe you’ve just been home with the kids all day and if they ask you one more question, you’re going to pop! And managing your temper is often easier said than done. But in order to facilitate healthy communication with your child and teach them how to communicate, you have to learn how to keep this in check. When you yell it triggers a fight or flight response in your children, even if you aren’t yelling directly at them. Over time, this creates an atmosphere of unease and your child learns to yell back or act out physically (fight) or recluse into her/himself (flight) and not feel comfortable talking with you.

How do I fix this? Calm, open communication with your child is key. Validating and summarizing the questions they ask or things they tell you, even if they seem insignificant to you as an adult, are very important to your child. This will help them feel heard and cared for, as well as will show them that you’re a safe person to connect with the next time something happens.

  1. I like my step-mom/step-dad

This one can be a hit to the gut. Whenever there’s been a messy divorce or intense court involvement with your ex, it makes it really easy to wish your child didn’t like him or her. And when there’s a new spouse or significant other in your ex’s life, this becomes even more complicated.  Often, children have seen your interactions with your ex, or heard you talk about them in a negative way; or even if you’ve been very careful to not say anything negative, children can usually pick up non-verbal communication and read body language enough to know some of your feelings. So they don’t want to tell you when they’ve had a good time at their dad’s, or like their new Step-father.

How do I fix this? Safety is key. Your child needs to feel secure enough in his or her relationship with you, to know that you’ll support them. Maybe you and your ex did not work as a couple, but you’ve created these wonderful, beautiful children, and validating that you want your child and your ex to be happy, goes a long way towards relieving the pressure your child feels to be loyal to you.

  1. I can’t be your friend

This is a tough one. In an effort to be close to your child, you’ve gotten to a place that you’re over-sharing about your day at work or your finances or your relationship with your spouse/ex. This is easy to do especially as your child gets older, but it puts an enormous amount of pressure on them, and though they may start to look more like an adult, they still have the concrete feelings and thoughts of a child and should not be expected to carry those kinds of emotional burdens.

How do I fix this?  Get your own support. If you find that you’re over-sharing with your child, it’s important to apologize to them and reassure them that you’ll be working on things yourself and with other adults to manage whatever issues may be going on. Whether it’s talking to friends or family more, seeking individual or marital counseling, talking to a financial advisor, or being more open with your boss; you need to be the adult in your relationship with your child. They only get to be kids for a short time, let them enjoy it!

  1. Sarcasm makes me feel dumb

Children are incredibly inquisitive. So much so, that sometimes parents make jokes or sarcastic comments at their child’s expense to make another adult laugh or correct their child. Younger kids often don’t pick up on this, but as they get older children realize that they’re being made fun of or being corrected in an unkind way, and this makes them feel stupid. This, in turn, causes your child to stop asking questions, stop communicating unless they have to, and/or starting using sarcasm back towards their parents out of habit or because they’re defensive. Parents then see this as disrespect, even though the parent continues to use it. For a pre-teen or teenager, this is incredibly hypocritical and makes the child withdraw more.

How do I fix this? Be genuine. If your child is asking a question, they likely don’t know the answer and are looking to you to help them. Try to answer in a kind, honest way. This will increase your child’s trust in you to care for them and make them more open to talking in the future.

If your child asks the same question over and over or asks a question that you think they should know the answer to. Use it as a learning experience. Prompt them to think about the last conversation you had about the topic and see if they can recall the answer. If so, they’re learning a life skill on how to recall information. If they can’t remember or continue to ask the same question, they may have genuinely forgotten or need reassurance from you about the answer.

You’ve got this! A good relationship with your child is all about healthy communication and good boundaries. Your child needs you and wants to talk with you! Help them learn these healthy communication skills and it will make all the difference for your family and for your children’s future!

 

Kate Hamlin, MA, LPC, NCC

Kate is a professional counselor at Miranda Counseling in Leawood, KS. She’s worked with children and families in the Kansas City Area for over 8 years and loves seeing families connecting and growing. For any further questions or comments, visit our website at mirandacounseling.com or call our intake line at 913-295-9800.