Putting down my phone to be present as a parent

I have a really busy workday. I’m often on the phone WhatsApping colleagues, checking emails and making sure I respond on time. When I need a distraction, I’ll check the news or social media to see what people are posting.

I do sometimes get stuck peering into my phone. Mostly it’s because I want to be efficient and fear not being in touch.

After I leave my office I go home to a couple of really fantastic children. I’m supervising them, making sure they’re eating, helping with homework and getting them ready for the next day.

Balancing work and home life

But every now and again I get a kick in a shin from my youngest, who is nine years old. She is independent, but she likes engagement and to have my full attention to be able to tell me about her school day, and sometimes I’m distracted… by my phone.

One day, when I was glancing at the phone, she was mid-story and apparently, I didn’t react properly, she looked at me and said “Mom, how’s your daughter?”

Intervention from my daughter

That made me stop, and ask: “Er, what do you mean?”

“Not me, the one in your hand,” she replied.

That really made me pause. But then she’s a very enlightened child.

Being present as a parent

So, whenever she approaches me now, she will say: “Mom I have something to tell you, and you have to put your daughter down.”

Of course what she is saying in effect is that she wants the attention I am giving to my phone, to give to my daughter in the flesh. That’s her way of saying it’s not OK.

Many of us are distracted by social media, including us parents. But our presence is very important. When I am with her, my presence should be with my “real” daughter and not anywhere else. By telling her I’m focused on doing something important (on the phone), I am telling her she is less important.

Setting an example for our children

Kids also need to learn to balance and to unplug. Texting is a skill, yes, but face-to-face engagement is also a skill that needs to be developed.

Now at home we have a ‘No Electronics Day’. It’s a special day once a month and we have to go outside and play or find something to do as a family. For my daughter, she needs a day when we’re not taking a photo of the experience but actually living it. And I think that’s a fabulous idea.

I’m looking forward to her comment when I read this to her! I would like her to know that I did receive what she was saying, that I understand, and of course, I’d like to know if I’m doing better these days!

For children, and parents, looking for advice on how to navigate social media and the internet safely, please check out our Connect Smart website. You can also view UNICEF’s ‘Children in a Digital World Report’.

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  1. Somewhat guilty. Great advice…presence is needed to enhance parenting. Thanks for the nodge.