The Mom I Choose to Be

iStock_000012822902SmallWhile each passing moment reminds me that my high school Senior is quickly becoming a young man, a cartoon image clicks in my mind. It is a split image of a young man and his Mom. On the left side of the cartoon a young man is walking out the front door of his home with a suitcase in hand. He is leaving the nest for the first time and around his torso is tied the arms of his Mom. Her body clings tightly to him; sobbing, gripping so tightly he gasps for air. Her legs are dragging behind him as he takes his first step out the door. She begs, “Don’t leave me, Son!” Below the image is written, “The Mom I Could Be!”

The second image portrays the same mom (she looks strangely like me), standing tall and smiling confidently. Her face is peaceful and a strong arm rests around her son. She gives him a goodbye that instills confidence and a firm footing in the young man as he steps out the door. I’m still working on what this mom says to her boy. Below the image is written, “The Mom I Choose to Be!”

These images portray the conflict within me as my heart and head struggle to unite in order to release my son well when the big moment comes. His High School Graduation is approaching quickly and I have been preparing myself since the day he was born.

You have gathered by now, I am not one of those moms you hear cheering when her kids go back to school after being home for long summer days. No, I am the one who is mourns the end of summer and the limited amount of time left to enjoy each other once they go back to school. I love our daily conversations in the van and I am their biggest sports fan. I melt when they smile and I labor in prayer for their lives.

So, how does a woman invest her entire heart, soul, mind and energies into the development and nurturing of her own flesh and blood and then release him?

Does she turn off the flow of adoration?

Does she keep silent even when her heart is aching?

Or does she cling, manipulate and control any detail she can in order keep him close?

I am convinced that most of us Mom’s are struggling with similar thoughts of loss and sadness when their children leave the nest. Some of us choose to act wacky and squeeze the life out of our kids while others release their children well.

From even the early days of parenting, I am faced with the choice to react to my emotions (yikes!) or to respond in healthy ways in the parent-child relationship. This requires honesty with myself about my feelings (not stuff them) and the desire to objectively support the stages of life my children are in.

If I desire for them to pursue their dreams, live inter-dependently as adults and have thriving family relationships of their own, then I must release them well!

Mamas, how are you doing on your journey to releasing your young adults well? Have you thought about what this will look like?

Are you able to talk with friends about your heartaches and anxieties? Do you receive a balanced and healthy response from them when you do?

Are you living with purpose outside of the parent-child relationship? If you aren’t, then it will be difficult to release well.

I hope you will join me –no matter what stage of life your children are in- -as we discover how to release our children well. Perhaps together we can figure out the best caption for “The Mom I Choose to Be”.

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Proverbs Vitamin: Family Mission Statement

“Through wisdom a house is built,

and by understanding it is established;

by knowledge the rooms are filled

with all precious and pleasant riches”   Proverbs 24:3-4

What images are evoked when you say the word, “home”? Do you smile and laugh as your mind wanders back to happy childhood memories?  Does your stomach turn as you try to push away the painful moments in your childhood home?

Regardless of your own childhood experience, you have the opportunity to build a home environment which reflects the love of God. You have the ability to determine whether your spouse and your children reflect upon “home” with feelings of warmth and a smile as they approach the front door. It doesn’t happen naturally or overnight, but it begins with a Family Mission Statement.

A Family Mission Statement helps you define the values you hold for home life. The Family Mission Statement reminds you to focus on this vision as you build your house.

Our Christensen Family Mission Statement centers upon Proverbs 24:3-4,

“Through wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is established, by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

We placed these verses on the front page of our wedding ceremony bulletin in 1990, and it is written in a prominent place in our home 21 years later. Who doesn’t want a home full of precious and pleasant riches — A place of rest and peace and laughter and acceptance? But, many of us do not know how to begin creating a rich environment for our families. Proverbs 24 gives us a concise plan to carry out our family mission.

Through wisdom a house is built.  Wisdom begins through the fear of the Lord. Wisdom is Christ Himself, who supplies us with all we need for living.  Relying upon our education or the cultural trends of the day will not build our home.  Christ is the Rock on which to build our personal lives and He is the foundation to build our family relationships.

By understanding it is established. The Holy Spirit guides us into understanding right and wrong. We can talk with Him daily about our child-rearing, our conflicts and concerns. We can ask Him for wisdom when our kids are in the middle of a tantrum or our spouse has lost their job. He will guide us to understand the needs of our family in light of Scripture. This understanding will establish our home!

By knowledge the rooms are filled. Knowledge is the love and practice of the wisdom and understanding that has been revealed. It includes grace and joy and living freely within the love of God. Our speech, our finances, our self-discipline and the way we discipline our children are all effected when we put to practice the wisdom of Christ.

The rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.  Some people interpret these riches as material blessings. I have been in the most humble of homes and the poorest of countries, where material goods were not filling the rooms of the home. Instead, overflowing joy, laughter and generosity were pouring out from beautiful lives. These precious and pleasant riches cannot be given or taken away by the world. These are the riches of rest, unconditional love, spirits and minds at peace with one another because they are at peace with Christ.

This is the vision of “home” I hold for my family. It begins on the foundation of knowing Christ, it is established through understanding His ways. Through knowledge we learn practical ways to treat one another in the home, and our hearts and rooms pour out with blessing.

Allow God to help you form your Family Mission Statement. It will guide your family in purposeful ways and keep you on track throughout the child-rearing years.

Have you created a Family Mission Statement? Share your Mission with others.  Come back next week for specific and practical ways to apply your Family Mission Statement to daily life.

 

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5 Tips to help an overwhelmed child enjoy Christmas

Christmas is quickly approaching, and our kids are so excited, aren’t they? The smells of Christmas dinner, the anticipation of visiting loving family, the sight of brightly covered mystery packages under the tree, and the squeals of laughter and conversation can all serve as sensory overload for a child. Whether you have a young one at home or child with special needs, some of our kids become overwhelmed on Christmas day.

Consider these helpful tips to make the special day more enjoyable for all:

Pace the opening of gifts
When it is your child’s turn to open gifts, he or she may not be ready to proceed.  Often times, the opening of gifts is the most overwhelming time of the day for a child.  They are asked to wait and take turns, or they rip the gifts open so fast, they become overwhelmed by the very prospect of all the colors, noises, and excitement.
You may need to reconsider the pace which gifts are open. Consider different gift-opening options.  You might try opening a couple of gifts at a time, then take time to open and play with them in another room before unwrapping the rest of the gifts. You may choose to keep some gifts unopened or hidden until a later time.
You know when your child’s stress meter is rising. Be alert and free to roll with it.

Allow your child to explore gifts on their own time clock
We adults have our own expectations about what Christmas day “should” look like. When living with an overwhelmed child, our expectations often clash with our child’s needs. Try to become aware of your own expectations and be willing to adjust for your children.  You may want to start playing with that cool toy and engage your child in exploration, but your child may not be ready.  Let your child lead the way of exploration when he or she is ready.
Offer frequent praise and nurture
When all the family members are engaged in conversation, television or games, it is easy to overlook your child for a good period of time…..until your child has an explosion. When overwhelmed for a long period of time, some young children or kids with special need’s begin to act out. The stimuli has been mounting within them and they explode!
Check in with your child frequently. Cuddle up with them, give them eye contact and specific praise. Praise the positive behavior that you desire to foster. What kind of praise reinforces your child the most? Is it a high-five, a kiss, a tickle game, or an m&m? Be generous with your reinforcements! They will go a long way to sustain your child and possibly prevent the next explosion.
Take calming breaks
Teach your child to take a break from all of the excitement. Through a hand signal, an index card, or a tap on the shoulder; your child can learn how to say, “I need a break”. Just as you are learning when to offer those breaks, your child can learn how to recognize when they need one. Until that time, consider taking your child on a brief break every hour to hour and a half.  The break may last about 10-20 minutes.
Find a quiet room to hang out together, go for a walk in the fresh air, or walk out to the car to get something together. Does your child have items that help them calm down? Put those items in a small backpack to keep accessible on Christmas day.  It may include a blanket, a squishy ball, lotion, or a small dvd player with their favorite cartoon. When the schedule of the day’s events are so unreliable to a child, their familiar items offer a calming effect.
Calming breaks can go a long way in preventing a child from becoming overwhelmed.
Make a game plan with your spouse
Before the big day, talk about these tips and your plan to implement them with your spouse.  Discuss the values to your family when you implement these tips.
What roles will you share during the day?  What vulnerable moments do you anticipate in the day?

When it’s all over…learn from the day

When the day is over, take some time to mull over your child’s day.

What things worked well?

What points of the day were more stressful for your child?

What can you do differently that will help the next big family event run more calmly for you and your child?  What will you do the same?

Jot down some notes and keep them in a place to remind you as you approach the next big event.  I like to keep notes on my cell phone calendar and in other strategic places I turn to when planning for the next season.  These reminders will help you be mentally prepared for the next event.

Take heart, tapping into your child’s needs and fostering positive outcomes is a process. Learn to give yourself some grace, as you live through this journey together.

Blessings to you and your family, this Christmas season!

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10 acts of compassion to encourage your neighbor

I stood in my heels next to our Lexus as I talked with a woman on the sidewalk.  She sat in her wheelchair as she told me about her recent trials.  Pointing to her crunched up toes, she explained her feet hurt because she had to squeeze them into a pair of old shoes that were a size too small.

My heart remembered, “To whom much is given, much is required”.

I see it more everyday.  People counting their last pennies to pay for their groceries, or taking items out of their cart in order to pay for the minimal amount of food they need.  I see more and more children walking to school who have outgrown their clothing and their coats.

People are stretched financially and stressed out emotionally.  Although we have our own challenges financially and emotionally as a family, we have so much in comparison.  What can I do with my resources: my time, my extra change, for the good of my neighbors?

  1. Be aware of someone struggling to pay for their groceries in the grocery line.  Discretely offer to pay for them.
  2. Offer to wrap gifts and help write letters at a local home for the elderly.
  3. Cook and deliver a meal together to someone recovering from surgery or physical limitations.
  4. Adopt a family in need:  buy a meal card or a Target card, and deliver it anonymously.
  5. Collect canned foods while Christmas Caroling and deliver it to the local food shelter.
  6. Christmas Carol, play musical instruments or create a dance or drama for a nursing home.  Give out lotion, chapsticks or personal artwork.
  7. Read for children at a local hospital or library.
  8. Whenever you buy a coat or shoes for yourself or children, give away the extra coat or shoes you own.
  9. Babysit for a single parent.  Give mom or dad a mental break and invite their child to hang out in your home.
  10. Give a special needs family a break and offer to watch their child for a few hours or overnight for a much-needed getaway.

How do you serve your neighbors?  What simple things can you do this week to incorporate a lifestyle of compassion?

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10 Acts of compassion for kids 10 and under

In a series of posts, “A World Beyond ME”, we will look at 40 acts of compassion for kids and their families.  Today, we are considering 10 Acts of Compassion kids age 10 and under can engage in with their families.

Because you want your children to grow in their capacity for compassion, allow them to have their creative input in your service choice.  Come alongside them as you serve, nudging them to take initiative.

While you participate in acts of compassion with your family, be aware you are a role model as you enjoy the service. Your kids are watching your interactions,  your attitudes ,and your acceptance of others. Don’t forget to let your kids use their own hands and feet and voice!  This is the best way for them to build upon their confidence and ability to care for others.

  1. Run or walk with an organized 5k to support your favorite charity:  Special Olympics, Breast Cancer Research, Run to Feed the Hungry
  2. Raise your own funds to support your favorite charity through garage sales, car washes, or another creative idea.
  3. Mow the lawn together, shovel snow off a sidewalk or take out the trash for an elderly neighbor.
  4. Share your talents or play games and cards with folks at a local home for the elderly.
  5. Find out about shut-ins at your church who may need errands run, a homemade dinner,  items fixed, windows cleaned or junk dumped.
  6. Serve dirty water at dinner, and then talk about raising or saving money for many people who do not have clean drinking water or wells (www.thewaterproject.org)
  7. Create artwork to thank someone or encourage someone in need of some emotional support.
  8. Do a family member’s chores at home.  Consider doing it on the sly or leave a special “anonymous” note.
  9. Bring baked goods to the local fire station and create a handmade thank you card.
  10. Donate your old books to a child in need.  Pick up an extra coloring book at the store.  Consider local churches, shelters, libraries or Head Start to bring your donation.

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences engaging your children ages 10 and under in compassionate acts!  Please add to the list in the comment section below.

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15 Benefits of raising compassionate kids

Brother encourages brother at Special Olympics

In my ministry and family experiences of working with young people, I am convinced those who are encouraged to develop empathy and exercise compassion in their lives benefit richly. Consider the character development that occurs in your children as you provide opportunities for them to show compassion.

  • Kids who volunteer learn to look beyond their own needs and desires.
  •  Self-pity decreases.  They are more likely to take their eyes off of their own problems and see them in perspective of others who have great need.
  • Self-importance decreases.  Their narrow adolescent world grows as they increasingly experience the needs of others.
  • They are more likely to embrace the value of treating others as they themselves want to be treated.
  • Self-indulgence decreases as they desire to give their resources to others in need.
  • Serving others brings a sense of purpose and mission to their existence (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Serving others brings personal fulfillment, satisfaction and joy as they are doing what they were created to do (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Acts of compassion promote a higher level of self-esteem due to their ability to make a contribution.
  • Moral responsibility and character are developed as children consider others in need.
  •  Acts of service and compassion develop a child’s ability to accept and communicate effectively with a diverse culture.
  • Volunteering to help others creates unique opportunities for children to use their talents and creative abilities for a purpose.
  • Serving beside others creates new friendships and builds positive memories with peers.
  • Compassionate children influence a generation, a school, and community.
  • Serving beside others promotes multi-generational understanding and respect.
  • Compassionate experiences in childhood help shape character and life-long patterns for adulthood.

This month I will be posting a series, “A World Beyond ME: Raising Compassionate Kids”.  I hope you will share your own thoughts and experiences as you follow along.

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Parenting: Does love have conditions?

 

Is she naughty or nice?

Every Friday for the last 10 years, my children count on “Mommy Can-do Day”.  They receive a special drink of their choice, simply to celebrate who they are.  This is one consistent and tangible “stamp” the boys receive to mark the fact that Mom loves and celebrates them-no matter what.

When my children attended a private school in their elementary years, each classroom held a “Dr. Can-do” jar.  Whenever a student behaved with great character, a great choice, or hard work, they received the positive reinforcement of getting a Dr. Can-do treat.  While I support positive reinforcements in child-rearing, I want my children to know beyond any doubt, that Dad and Mom love them no matter what they do. Whether they tantrum all week as young ones, carry on with a stubborn attitude in their tweens, or don’t finish their chores this week; they are still the recipients of our unconditional love.  So, Mommy Can-do Day was born.

Unconditional love is a tough concept to receive at any age.  Does love have conditions? There is something innately within us that feels like we need to earn someone’s love and approval.  Many of us ultimately connect this belief to God; thinking when we do good things and act a certain religious way, we will gain the approval and favor of God.  After all, if my parents don’t accept me and I disappoint my teachers, then certainly God is pretty disgusted with me.

This train of thought opposes the truth of the Scriptures, which state God loves us simply because He IS love.  Our acts of righteousness or works do not earn us passage into eternal life with Him.  It is by His own character of loving kindness, grace and mercy toward us that we are loved.  We are simply to receive Him by faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-7).

Jesus is my example of this kind of love.  As a parent, I have the power to influence the foundation which my children are able to receive it.  Unconditional love is the foundation which a child is able to accept him or herself in all of their uniqueness. When a child is loved unconditionally, we promote an environment of forgiveness and grace.  A parents unconditional love provides a safe place for a child of any age to relax, unload, take healthy risks and discover new aspects of life.

Recently, I handed the chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top to my junior high son sitting in the back seat of the van. I asked him, “Do you know why you are still getting this Mommy Can-do?”

He answered, “Because I have been working hard all week”.

No matter how many years he has received a Mommy Can-Do each and every Friday; his first response was to resort to “earning” the milkshake. I responded, “Son, this is to remind you that it doesn’t matter whether you worked hard this week or not.  I love you.  I love who you are.  Nothing you do or don’t do will ever change that.”

His response was a good reminder to me.  No matter how intentional I am in my parenting; my children have different personalities, different love-languages, and different ways of interpreting my actions. I can’t assume what I am doing or saying is received in the manner intended. I need to evaluate if my actions and responses to them throughout the week are covered in love and grace.

Perhaps the Friday treats have become more of a reminder to me of my unconditional love.  I must verbally repeat throughout the week, in the manner which each child can hear; that Mom and Dad love and celebrate them for who they are–plain and simple.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton

How do you express unconditional love to your children?  How will you know if they are receiving it? 

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We swallowed our pride and invited in help

 

Our Family

Some months the stress and challenges of raising a child with special needs is pressing, tiring, even close to unbearable. I say close, because God always comes to the rescue when we’re in our greatest need!

On the other hand, there are weeks when life becomes status-quo…as far as special needs families go. We can laugh as a family like only a family who knows, can. These days, we are in challenging/laughing mode.

Our sweet, funny boy with Down’s Syndrome, has gone through his own tough times. In his pre-teen years, he developed behavior that is difficult to manage. It stumps his social and intellectual growth. It stumps our family’s ability to do things together in and out of the home. And it stumps me—the Mom with the M.A. in Marriage and Family, the youth worker, the educator of family life. After the trial and error of contacting “helpful” professionals, we requested the best, oldest (sorry if that offends you young ones), and most experienced behavior specialist.

Six months later the old male version of “The Nanny” walked into our home. I will call him Ned. Thankfully, he was not sporting a camera crew, but he interviewed, scrutinized, analyzed, and labeled our every move! How unpleasant to have all of our parenting and child’s idiosyncrasies listed in a ten page document.

Ned touts his prescribed behavior plan as if it is his religion—the only way, the right way. He talks down to us if we don’t entirely agree with him. My husband and I sit open-postured, trying to remain humble as we consider a new view. Silently, we are struggling with some of his philosophies. We burst out laughing sometimes when he leaves, yet we are ever so willing and desperate to try his plan.

Ned trained us, followed behind us and coached us. He plopped himself on our chair while I was cooking, or by the pool as the boys splashed and played. He entered our home for hours of observation. Sometimes Ned gave us a thumb up for his approval or pulled us aside to the dining room for a “talk” if we needed to respond differently to our child. At his direction we have role played, high-fived each other, yelled “yeah, great job!” louder and more enthusiastically than ever before. It has worked wonders!!

In a short amount of time our boy is productive, happier, using more effective communication, and negative behaviors are dwindling away. But it is not the end. Our family is in the midst of a grand process. Together we are struggling and giggling as we work it out. We can’t afford not to. As long as we desire our children to thrive and our boy to live his best life possible, we will diligently stick to the plan.

Have you ever thought about seeking outside support for your personal or family struggles? What keeps you from pursuing help?

I’d love to hear how you have benefited from the help of pastors or other professionals in your life.

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Protection for the teen mind

Have you been lying sleepless in your bed of late? Do pictures flash in your mind of your teenager racing his car in the streets or your daughter abusing alcohol and getting in sexual dilemmas at the parties she attends? We hold our breath and pray our children will survive the teen and young adult years. There are so many distractions for a young driver these days, they don’t have to be racing to be in danger. The “what if’s” are enough to make us crazy.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen offers validity to these fears in his book, “Magnificent Mind at Any Age”:

“Teens do best when their parents know where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Teens do best when they know their parents check on them. You need to be your teen’s prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that provides supervision, judgment, and impulse control), until they can properly monitor themselves. The prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until we are twenty-five years old, so even supervising young adults is appropriate.”

A parent’s job is not complete when their children are able to take the keys and live more independently. We get confused about our parenting role in this American culture. So, what can we do? Do we follow our children everywhere; hiding behind trees and trucks to spy on their every move? Do we attach a GPS to their cell phones?

Active parenting includes asking questions, checking out our teen’s plans, and supervising certain situations. But, we must also learn to give our teens growing independence and practical tools to make their own healthy, godly choices. If we are the ones making all the decisions for them and shielding them from life’s experiences, they will never learn from mistakes and struggles. But where do we begin?

A parent’s wise Christ-centered instruction helps to grow children spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. The instruction is deliberate. In Proverbs we read about the father teaching his son to get wisdom and instructing him not to forget it. He instructs his son not to turn away from his father’s words, but accept them fully. What are the results for the children who have been instructed and have chosen to honor their parents’ words? Wisdom will guard them and keep them from stumbling. Now that’s what a teen’s mind needs!

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight
Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away
from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.

Proverbs 4:1,5-6,10-13

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Are you nurturing an unhealthy relationship with your cell phone?


Many of the things we invest our time and heart into, are in direct relation to the core values we hold in life. When we go out for dinner with our friends and family members and each individual keeps their eyes fixed upon the screen of their cell phone instead of the eyes of those they are in immediate relationship with, we are exercising our values. We may not be aware of it. If you were to ask each member around the table they would likely state their relationships with each other is most important, but the power of a little cell phone has the ability to turn some of those values upside down. Many of us are nurturing an unhealthy relationship with our cell phone.

No cell phone, text, or email shall be my master

How did we ever survive without the ability to text our parents and tell them the exact corner we are waiting at after practice to be picked up? Modern technology, with its numerous benefits to our daily lives, also has its downfalls.

I am waiting for the day when someone surgically implants Velcro to the palm of their hands to keep their cell phones attached to their bodies at all times. We live in a society of people who have deceived themselves to believe they cannot make it through the day, let alone the hour without being connected to someone in an instant.

Not only have some of us personally bought into this mentality, but we press it upon others. If we live glued to our cell phone, spend hours in front of our computer, or text numerous times throughout the day, we expect others to do the same. When we send an email we send it with an expectation that the receiving person will jump to attention and reply within a given amount of time. The problem is, we all have differing unspoken rules about the adequate, socially acceptable amount of time in which an email or text must be replied.

Giving someone my full attention and eye contact as they share their story, is an important element in building trust in a relationship. If I were to wander my eyes around the room and interrupt your story with conversations to others passing by, I would in essence be telling you, “What you are saying to me is not important. Something or someone more important to me just came in the room”. Personally, I choose not to share the things that matter to me with those who portray such lack of care. It is why I don’t jump when my cell phone pings with a text message or another email which wants to unknowingly compete with the relationship or task at hand. I will answer in due time. The value of building relationships: eye contact, listening, caring in the here and now takes precedence.

No, I am not screening your call, I do not have any screening device on my home phone. Unless I see an 877-number calling on my cell, I am not screening you. You are important to me also, but if I answered every call, email, text at the moment it was sent, (assuming I actually hear the call), I would not get a single productive thing done in my day! I would go nuts with that kind of imbalance. I will not allow any cell phone, text, email or social media to be my master.

Just say, “No”

Do you ever wonder why doctor’s offices, movie theatres and churches have to place signs and make public announcements to teach us when not to use our cell phones? Granted, it is easy to forget to turn off the ringer, but why do we have to be told in the first place? We have allowed the mighty cell phone to pull our chain wherever we go, thinking we will miss out on some conversation, some relationship, some event if we are not available 24/7. This is simply not true.

When we fail to set technological boundaries in our lives, then we give the false impression that we are working 24 hours a day, we are accessible at all times, and others hold control over our every waking hour. The lack of boundaries could overwhelm anyone! I hear this topic of frustration come up frequently across the generations.

Recently my son told me, “My friend is texting me more than 5 times a day. I don’t have time to return the texts all day. I don’t know what to do.” He was experiencing anxiety over the pressure to be available to his friend at any given moment. I suggested he practice what one of his friends does; turn off his phone for a few hours a day. Leave the phone in his bedroom while he visits with the family or goes bike riding. His friends will still be around at the end of the day.

I often wonder how I would have handled cell phones and social media when I was in school. My guess is, I would not have gotten many of those 20 page papers written, at least not well. I would have been too busy socializing, planning, pursuing, and cooing with my friends.

The distractions of on-demand communication is a “greater threat to IQ and concentration than is smoking marijuana”, according a recent study. The obligation to reply to every message slows down the brain and our ability to stay focused. This addictive behavior has been studied recently by psychologists. “The anticipation of something good keeps us checking something routinely”, states Dr. Daniel G. Amen, in his book “Magnificent Mind at any age” .

5 suggestions for balancing your relationship with technology

1. Keep hours. Decide to check and answer emails or social networks during specific times of the day. Perhaps once in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Maybe even less.
2. Don’t jump to answer your cell at every moment it beckons you. If you are in the middle of a task or conversation, discipline yourself to ignore it until you are free.
3. Provide an emergency plan for reaching you through text or cell if necessary. I send texts to my husband throughout the day without receiving his replies. I know he is busy at work. But, if I call him three times in a row, he will pick up or return my call quickly, knowing it is an emergency.
4. Don’t keep people waiting for your reply for an excessive amount of time. It is appropriate to text them and say, “I can’t talk at the moment, can I give you a call tomorrow morning?”
5. Let the people you are presently with know they are a priority to you. Keep your cell phones tucked away, and concentrate on making eye contact and building relationship with the person. An exception would be for those who are caretakers, parents, or expecting an emergency call. In that case, I always tell my friends, “I will only get this if it is my kid’s school calling”.

Sound off! Tell me what you think about our relationship to technology.

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