The topic of kids and phones is one that most families can’t avoid. Some children may view getting their first phone as a rite of passage that accompanies a certain birthday or entering a specific grade (middle school being the most popular time for the begging and bargaining to begin). Other kids receive a smartphone at an earlier age, and it seems that very few make it to high school without their own phone number.
Regardless of your decision as to when your child can have a phone, the act of receiving one does not mean that your child will magically develop the basic skills necessary to communicate appropriately.
What do I mean by basic communication skills?
I mean the art of having a reciprocal conversation and using words (not text) to ask questions and obtain information.
I will date myself now and share that I grew up with a corded phone practically attached to the side of my head. Everyone I knew had a home phone, and it was typically answered when it rang. Before caller ID, you had to deal with the person on the other end of the line by listening, thinking, and responding. It didn’t seem hard, and kids learned from an early age to communicate on the phone by watching parents and other adults have verbal conversations that did not involve FaceTime or texting.
I'm officially going on record as saying this is a lost art. And maybe we’re moving toward a society where we don’t have to actually talk to each other all that often, but I think it’s important for kids to be able to interact and function using their voices.
If you can relate, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that your kids will naturally learn these communication skills. As a parent, you have to go out of your way to make sure your child has opportunities to practice because technology makes it all too easy to side-step direct interaction and avoid voice-to-voice conversations.
So, when you grant your child the privilege of a smartphone, it’s important to make sure he or she knows how to do these three things:
Call to ask for information.
You can practice by taking the “long way around” once in a while and phoning a store or place of business to ask about their hours of operation. Better yet, choose something that’s important to your child, like a new piece of clothing, toy or sports equipment, and have them call the store to see if it’s available.
I can practically hear the naysayers shouting, “It’s all online now, you don’t ever need to do this stuff!” I get it, but when my daughter wanted a specific dress and needed it for the next day, she was paralyzed when the store’s online system wasn’t able to tell her which shop actually had the item. When I suggested she call the local stores to ask, I was in awe of the fact that she needed step-by-step guidance to do so. The punch line is, your child needs to be able to have a conversation with someone to ask for information because one day it may be the only option and it’s a skill worth developing.
Have a reciprocal conversation with someone who is out of sight.
When kids are used to texting, the pace of conversation is unnatural. You can respond when you want to and there’s no expectation of an immediate reply. When talking to someone, especially over the phone when facial expressions are out of the picture, it’s important for your child to remain engaged and keep pace with the discussion.
This takes practice, so encourage your kids to make phone calls to family members and even friends without activating a video option. I know this is not the norm, but it’s important for your child’s developing brain to create a script or road-map for having conversations that flow.
Respond to an unexpected caller.
I know that most of us as adults don’t answer the phone anymore unless we know who is calling. The last thing I want to do is spend time talking to a telemarketer! But, there will come a day when your child answers the phone and encounters an unexpected caller.
Make sure your son or daughter knows how to respond if someone dials his or her number by accident or if there is a telemarketer trying to sell something or offer a deal. Case in point, our home phone recently rang, one of my kids mistook the number and thought it was a family member calling and then struggled to navigate the conversation because it was not the person they expected.
What you would say if someone called and asked for “Jim” (who does not live with you). You would say, “Sorry, wrong number,” probably without hesitation. Most kids would not have a clue. So, even if there are very few opportunities for your child to practice this skill, give them the words to use if and when they need to communicate with an unexpected caller.
Memorial Day is just around the corner which means summer is almost upon us. For parents, this always seems to be an interesting time of year. On one hand, it feels like school should be over, but at the same time it feels like routines are falling apart just when you’ve finally gotten into a groove. Either way, the calendar is filling up with special events to celebrate another academic year coming to a close and you have to keep up!
Here are three ways to make sure you and your child survive—and thrive, during the home stretch of the school year:
Hold sleep sacred.
Days are getting longer and it’s only natural for kids and teens to want to stay up later. While there are times when special events will bump into bedtime routines, do your best to make sleep a priority.
This is especially important to remember if you have older children who are preparing for exams. It may be tempting to justify a few late nights of studying, but sacrificing rest for test preparation has a negative impact on your child’s sleep cycle that does more harm than good. Planning ahead is the best way to prepare, and when the time comes know that it’s okay to make the call for lights out.
Spend “found” time thoughtfully.
For younger children, this may be a time of year marked by progressively less homework and more free time after-school. Be mindful about how that time is spent and try to prevent overuse of screens by lovingly kicking your child outdoors as often as possible or encouraging unplugged playtime.
These last few weeks will set the stage for the long summer ahead and it’s a great opportunity for kids to practice filling free time with creativity and movement. Know that the pull to pick up a tablet or plug into video games will be hard to resist, but that the limits you set now will pave the way for a great summer.
Enjoy the moments you can.
When the routines you’ve come to rely on over the past nine months start come to change, it’s hard to keep up. Recitals, concerts, and graduation ceremonies all require time, organization, and preparation. There always seems to be a last minute change in plans or a specific shirt that needs to be procured at the last minute.
During the process, remember to take a breath, pace yourself, and enjoy these milestone moments. In ten years, it won’t matter how hard it was to rearrange work schedules and deal with crowded auditoriums, it will be the look on your child’s face that will stay with you. Make sure you’re not so distracted by the hectic pace that you miss it.
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Mother’s day is here again and this past week I’ve heard friends and family members express mixed emotions about this holiday. Maybe you’re excited to spend uninterrupted time with your kids and family. Maybe you’re fantasizing about some time alone to escape and recharge. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed with feelings of grief and loss based on your relationship with your mother, your children, or your experiences when it comes to motherhood.
All of this got me to thinking about the myths we create around Mother’s Day that often lead to frustration and get in the way of whatever joy is available to feel. The idea that this one day in May is “supposed” to happen a certain way, convey a certain sentiment, or represent something grander than the other 364 days on the calendar can backfire and set you up for disappointment.
So, in an attempt to help set you up for the best Mother’s Day possible, here are the top four myths—debunked, for your Mother’s Day pleasure.
MYTH #1: Mother's Day is all about spending quality time with your kids.
This is only true if you want it to be true. And, if you don’t—if you’re tired, depleted, or simply longing for a moment to gather your thoughts without being needed—that’s perfectly fine.
There is no right way to spend your waking hours on Mother’s Day and if you want to do something special with your kids and family, make it happen. If you want to lock yourself in the bathroom and climb into the tub for two hours while your kids are otherwise occupied, that’s great too!
MYTH #2: Mother's Day is all about honoring your mother.
All mothers are also daughters. If you're fortunate enough to have a healthy relationship with your mom you probably want to do something to honor her, or her memory. That said, it’s okay to set boundaries on Mother’s Day, especially if you don’t have an ideal mother-daughter relationship.
So, if making plans with or for your mother causes you stress and makes you wish Mother’s Day didn’t exist, stop and give yourself permission to pull back and find a more comfortable, healthy way to celebrate.
MYTH #3: Mother's Day means you get a day "off."
So, anyone who is a mom knows this simply is not true. There is no such thing as a day off. Even if you manage to escape to the spa for the entire weekend, you’re still on call when someone needs to find their favorite stuffed animal they can’t sleep without, the sweatshirt they need to wear to the game, or the box of cereal that’s probably right on the pantry shelf.
Mother’s Day does not exempt moms from dealing with tantrums, acting as referee, or playing nurse to a sick child. FYI, stomach viruses don’t follow the Hallmark calendar.
MYTH #4: Mother’s day is magical and full of happiness and gratitude.
I’m not saying your Mother’s Day can’t be a page out of a fairy tale, but in the real world, Mother’s Day is actually just another Sunday in May. Is it nice to get a little extra appreciation or acknowledgement or whatever makes you happy? Sure, but if you really want it, or anything else for Mother’s Day, please ask for it.
There’s no playbook that kids, husbands, and partners receive, and even if you are loved, respected, and appreciated, no one can read your mind. Give yourself permission to create your own happiness, whatever that means for you on Mother’s Day.
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Sharing practical strategies that help parents rediscover joy in their children (even when someone's crying, the phone is ringing, and it smells like the house may be burning down)