As a therapist who works with lots of teenagers, I often talking about successful parenting skills. I often caution parents about not letting their kids spend too much time playing video games or playing on iPhones. However, over the past couple of years, it seems just as important to remind parents about their own screen addictions.
I often go to the coffee shop to take a break and do some work on the computer. More and more often these days, I see a parent come in alone with a toddler or infant and sit for a long time, ignoring their child as they focus on their smart phones. I always want to tell them to interact with their child.
Nothing is more important than interacting with your child as this age. Does it take effort? Of course. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We don’t know what the effects on kids will be whose parents are there physically, but not emotionally. However, you can bet it won’t be good. While it’s tempting to think you’ll just be on your phone for a minute while your child is occupied with something else, it usually tends to be more than just a minute.
Successful parenting–raising mentally healthy kids who are responsible, socially adept, and who will become successful adults–takes time and effort. Kids whose parents have put in the effort to interact with them are later rewarded with older children who are intelligent, interesting, socially successful, and positive. They often have better relationships with their children as they grow up.
In my counseling practice, I’ve provided counseling for teenagers who feel their parents lack interest in their lives. These teenagers feel their parents left them to figure things out for themselves and they resent their parents. This tends to be the time when grades slip, or the teenagers get into trouble at school or their neighborhood.
To save yourself the misery of having this situation happen to your family, invest in your children while they are young. Put the phone away and play with your kids.
Gary Watson is a counselor in Grand Rapids, Michigan who specializes in working with teenagers, college students, and young adults. He also provides marriage counseling. Gary uses a solution focused approach to counseling with all clients. To learn more about Solution Focused Counseling, go to the Solution Focused Brief Counseling Association website. To learn more about Gary Watson, please visit his website at www.turnaboutcounseling.com.