My family moved to a new house a few months ago and, shortly after settling in, we invited our new neighbor over for dessert. She shared lots of really interesting stories about her life. We were especially engrossed in one that she was telling about raising a teenage foster son when she mentioned their “electronics basket.”
I had to stop her to ask what she meant. She explained, “We had a rule that all phones, video games, etc. had to be in the electronics basket by 9:00 every night. Not just for our foster son– my husband and me, too.”
I’m not sure why this was so enlightening to me, but I started thinking about how much screen time my husband and I have. Our kids are young so they don’t have their own phones or other electronic devices, but my husband and I often work on our phones or computers after they go to bed, and shut them off right before we turn in ourselves.
So I threw out the suggestion to my husband: “What if we work until 9:00 tonight, then turn off our computers and watch the Olympics together?” (Okay, okay, I know this is kind of like trading one screen for another. But when we watch the Olympics, we just kind of have it on while we talk about our day and the event that we’re watching.) Both of us really enjoyed having the extra time to relax together. We don’t do this every night, but we are trying to be more disciplined about turning off our screens and paying attention to each other and our kids.
I counsel a lot of teens and families, and a common theme that I see is that both the kids and parents wish they had more time and ways to connect and interact with each other. Putting some limits on electronics use is a great place to start since our phones and TVs often get more of our attention than our family members.
If you’d like to try this idea but aren’t sure how it will go over with your kids or spouse, keep these tips in mind:
- Focus on the benefits instead of the restrictions. Instead of starting with, “You’re going to have to start turning off your phone every night at 9:00,” open with, “I’d really love for us to have a little more family time in the evening so I can connect with you and understand how your day was.”
- Lead by example. Let your kids see that you’re the first person to turn off your computer and throw your phone in the basket.
- Make it fun. Grab some special snacks or break out a board game to make the extra time together something to look forward to.
What would your marriage or parenting relationships look like if you tried this?