It’s easy to understand why good old-fashioned, tech-free family time has gone the way of the dodo. Sure, you try to unplug your kids (“no phones at the table,” “go play outside”), but if getting them off the grid were that easy, you wouldn’t be in the middle of an epic Angry Birds battle as you read this. Here, some tips on how to enjoy a tech-free turkey day.
Avoid the surprise attack
When trying to convince your kids to do anything they don’t want to do, fair warning is key. “If you spring your plan on them Thanksgiving morning, you’re going to have a revolt on your hands,” says Michele Borba, a parenting expert and educational psychologist in California. Setting expectations in advance gives children time to process and eventually adjust. She also recommends explaining to your kids why this is important. Even something as simple as “I really want to spend time together as a family without distraction,” will help in making the rule feel less arbitrary.
Manage those high expectations
If you think a full tech-free day is pushing it (and it probably is) Dr. Borba recommends setting up “sacred times” (though feel free to adopt a cooler term). Basically, this means setting your priorities and then mapping out tech-free time blocks. “Obviously the dinner would be one of them,” she says. For best results, let the kids have their say in terms of the schedule. (“When do you think we should play Parcheesi?”) Children are always more likely to abide by a plan when they have been part of making it.
Parenting can be a team sport
Remember there is strength in numbers. If your kids’ BFFs are also offline, the fear of missing out on some earth-shattering info (Jemma said she sort of, kind of likes Jonah. OMG) will be far lessened. And at the very least it means you don’t have to deal with the inevitable and oh-so-annoying, “This is so unfair! All of my friends are allowed to text during dinner.”
Hold the line
Be aware – your sweet little progeny will have all sorts of wily ploys. Tactic 1: The temper tantrum. “As is always the case with tantrums, any attention you give it will only fan the flames,” Dr. Borba explains, advising that parents should ignore the theatrics and let the fire die out. Tactic 2: The homework excuse. This is a tough one because most kids today are more tech-savvy than mom and dad, and often doing homework and engaging in non-stop-back-and-forth about the upcoming dance can look the same. They are playing you. To avoid this scenario, refer to tip No.1, and let your kids know that no computer time also means no homework. If they continue to pester, offer to wake them up at 6 a.m. the next day so that they can complete the work before class. (Parent 1, Kid 0).
Special to The Globe and Mail
And don’t do this: Pick up your own smart phone. The rules of engagement apply to everyone.