The days full of anger and frustration seemed to be outweighing the days full of joy and satisfaction. My kids and I were locking horns over screen time every single day. I was struggling to get them following any limits, completing chores or finishing homework before getting on their devices. I was at my wit’s end and worried that our relationships were deteriorating into dangerously negative territory. Seeing my desperation a friend of mine recommended that I “talk to someone”. Therapy didn’t seem like the right fit. I didn’t need emotional healing, I needed a practical solution in the here and now. But my friend corrected me, she meant a parent coach, not a therapist. I was puzzled. I had heard of life coaches and executive coaches, but not parent coaches. She told me that like other coaches, parent coaching could help support me to make the positive changes I so badly needed.
I was ill at ease enough to look into it. After doing some research I decided to contact a parent coach. From the very first call I felt relieved that I had someone to help me. Coaching, I learned, was going to help me get in touch with my parenting priorities and values around screen time. It was time to block out the noise of the internet searches, parenting books and advice from family and friends and tune into what I really wanted for my kids and my family, and not just about screen time. Combined with her expertise about child development we would get me to a better place. I wasn’t sure I could fit coaching into my busy schedule but I set aside one hour each week for 10 weeks and it was worth it. For the first time, in a long time, I felt hopeful.
With the guidance FROM of my coach I was able to see that some things were actually working for screen time at my house, even in spite of the challenges. While they were on the screen more than I wanted, they were using it to learn new skills, connect with friends playing games that were interactive and collaborative.
We spent one session formulating my dream. The ideal family life that I was longing for without all of the tension and struggle. We spent a session talking about my strengths as a parent and my children’s strengths. I am really good at talking with my kids about things and making sure they know how I feel. They do well when rules are clear and they have a voice in decision making. Then we used the strengths to design the steps I would take to make my present day to day match my dream.
I engaged my boys in conversation when I wasn’t feeling charged or anxious and we were able to come up with some screen time parameters that worked for everyone. I had homework and there were times that I had to step out of my comfort zone. But each week I took a small step towards creating limits and boundaries around screen time at our house making sure my kids were part of the process. It wasn't perfect and it didn’t resolve everything, but it made life easier and I felt the joy return to our household and in my relationships with my kids.
Coaching is also about engaging in self care because it is an essential part generating the high energy and focus that is required to be a parent. It is so easy to let it go when there is barely enough time in the day to maintain balance between work and family. I came up with the self care that works for me. It felt doable, just 10 minutes a day to take a walk, meditate or write in my journal. On days when I followed through (most of the time) I was more patient with the kids.
While having a better screen time balance in my household was the reason I sought out a parent coach, I came away with so much more:
I am grateful to my friend for introducing me to parent coaching. In this day and age when so many people are raising kids without the help of extended family around, and now so many of us are isolated from our regular communities due to COVID, it is nice to know that there is a resource out there to help.
If you want to learn more about parent coaching and how it can support you please visit www.truenorthparentcoaching.com.
Everyone agrees that in-person learning is best for most kids. Being in school provides not only the best academic learning opportunities but is essential for the social-emotional development of all children. In addition, some kids depend on school for meals and other important services. For many parents having kids at home is an economic stressor which makes it impossible for them to go to work or even work at home. In California, where I live, most schools have started with distance learning as mandated by the governor. As the counties in my area see cases decreasing, schools are making plans to reopen. While all parents have the option to continue with distance learning, many are faced with the decision of whether or not to let their child return in person. We all want our kids to go back to school, but we all want them to be safe too. It feels like an impossible decision. Here are 8 questions to ask yourself while you weigh the pros and cons:
Remember to breathe, stay grounded and trust that you know what is best for your child and your family.
If you need more support and would like some coaching in making this decision please contact email@example.com. True north is offering individual and group coaching sessions to help you.
Distance learning is hard on everyone, but especially for our youngest learners and their caregivers. That is why True North Parent Coaching and the PA of the Contra Costa Jewish Day School created a workshop: Tips and Tools: Strategies for Successful Distance Learning for Young Learners K-3. We gathered a group of parents to find out about their most pressing issues around distance learning and to share strategies to increase focus, promote independence, manage screen time and much more. We compiled the results in this Resource Guide. Please use it and share it. If you are interested in bringing the workshop to your school or organization please contact Truenorthparentcoaching@gmail.com
To watch the workshop for free click HERE
Recently my friend sent me this great article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Screen, by Linda Wilbrecht, PhD. It helps frame some of the positive ways that screen time can support teens during the Pandemic. When I received the article I had already been reflecting on how much screen time my two teenage sons have had since the lockdown in March. Since the boys were young, we have always limited their screen time out of the fear of the negative side effects like screen addiction, social isolation, increased anxiety and depression and lack of in person communication skills.
This past summer, without their regular summer activities, the boys were on the screens a whole lot more, and I know it was the same for most kids. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t all bad and that even in my own home there are some really positive ways screen time is helping my kids through this crisis. So much of what my kids were choosing to do was actually helping foster many of the things that I had feared in the first place! Instead of becoming addicted, they are actually finding their own screen balance, increasing social connection, sharpening their communication skills and learning new things.
One of their friends developed a server for Minecraft, the “world building game”. Together, they go on adventures and build new worlds including a “Capture the Flag” arena where they actually play “Capture the Flag”. This past weekend, six kids got together to fight the Enderdragon and “win” the game. While they play, they talk and chat through Discord, a communication platform. But the great thing is that they organized this all themselves! From the other room, I hear them working together, being creative, working out conflict and collaborating in ways that they just can’t do right now in person. Both of my kids are exploring their interests and developing new skills using their screens. One is learning to draw his favorite anime characters while the other is teaching himself to repair and maintain his bicycle.They are also spending time diving mindlessly into the black hole of YouTube videos and there seems to be a place for that too.
We have had conversations about different types of screen time because as Linda Wilbrecht writes in the article, "it may not be the amount of screen time that is important, but what we are doing with our screens." She makes a good point and with this in mind it became my goal to help them to distinguish between active, productive screen time where they are building skills and passive screen time which is purely for entertainment. Encouraging them to balance active and passive screen activities made the difference between feeling good about their increased screen use and my worry that they are online too much.
My boys still don’t have free reign of their screen time. We talk about it daily, how much, what kind and how it makes them feel. All screens are off by 9:30pm. We make time to connect as a family each evening. We make sure that they are getting enough exercise and sleep. So while I still can’t say that I love the screen, it isn’t scaring me as much as it used to. I am more at peace because I see its value for my sons during this time that they are cut off from their friends. I appreciate their giving me a new perspective on an “old foe” in these challenging times.
In her article “Four Things to Do Every Day for Your Mental Health”, Elizabeth Markle says that, “in the absence of everything that normally dictates our days, we are called on to create the structures that will support our health, physically and emotionally, in a time of profound uncertainty.” Markle advocates that we all create our own structure using these four concepts:
Move: Build movement in your structure, at least 20 minutes per day!
Nourish: setting up a daily structure that (mostly) fills you with nourishing, healthy foods
Connect: Humans need to connect to other humans. Since right now it won’t naturally happen throughout the day, you have to ask for it and schedule it.
Be: Pause long enough from the chaos of our new realities “to let your nervous system come back to baseline after prolonged activation.” Find what works for you, be it meditation, doing a puzzle or simply watching TV. Whatever helps you just BE.
As parents we can take care of ourselves by incorporating some of this into our daily routines, as we model for and support our kids, of any age, to do the same.
Read the full article:
I came across a great article in the NY Times by Anya Kamenetz, education reporter for NPR and author of “The Art of Screen Time”. As a full time working parent who lectures about screen time all over the country, she uses this article to reframe the issue of screen time during the time of COVID. The screen rules that were in place before shelter in place no longer have the same meaning or value for most families. Life for her and for most parents has dramatically changed as kids regular summer and school routines were interrupted last Spring. And with no end in sight she offers up some new screen time guidelines:
Find the full article here.
Jenny Michaelson is a PCI,
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