Face Time: The value of setting apart time for face to face conversation with children.

I have a confession to make.  One of my pet peeves is when someone says “Hey, how are you doing?”  but they don’t listen or really even care about my reply. I have been tempted during one of my off days, to spill my guts and say something like “life really stinks right now because fill in the blank…..  Though I have never actually done it, I giggle when I imagine their response.

Lately, I think this question bugs me even more because I am craving adult interaction.  I spend so much time with my kids that I don’t get many opportunities to have uninterrupted conversations with a truly interested ear.

Quality time is one of my love languages.  It makes me feel valuable and important. To me, having a meaningful uninterrupted conversation with someone is like being given a beautifully wrapped gift.  I cherish it, and it runs through my mind for weeks, months, sometimes even years afterward.

When I was young, my family was fortunate enough to live next door to my mother’s parents. While I had a great bond with all of my grandparents, my Pop Pop was the most influential in my life.  He had a way of always making me feel loved and important.  He and I spent many warm evenings sitting in his chair outside counting cars.  Growing up in a large family, I didn’t always get much alone time with an adult, which is why these special evenings were so meaningful.  I would sit on his lap and we would simply pick a color and count how many cars of that color passed by.  Even now I can imagine the safety I felt in his arms and his rough whiskers against my face.

Just reflecting on this meaningful relationship brings me to tears for various reasons.  For one, I miss him terribly, but I also cry because I want the same thing for my children. I want them to have deeply meaningful, life changing relationships with people who care about them, throughout their life.  I want them to know how special they are and what potential their futures hold.

In this day and age these experiences are few and far between.  Our high tech society leaves little down time.  The pace of life just seems to intensify daily. And I am concerned that without these meaningful face to face conversations, my children will miss out on opportunities to develop emotional security, as well as empathy, and social confidence.

Obviously, since there is nothing that I can do to control the behavior of anyone but myself, I have decided that I want to create a culture in my home where face to face interaction is the priority.  I want my children to be the priority over getting things done.

So, I have begun to search for ways to make this shift within my household.

Sometimes in the business of family and work life, it seems like their isn’t time for long conversations.   Therefore, I realized that instead of being burdened by the day to day menial tasks such as getting my children dress, putting on my their shoes, and even blowing their noses; I am going to capitalize on these brief moments to make eye contact and say positive affirmations or to share words or encouragement to them.

For example, while putting on my children’s seatbelts the other day, I thought, this would be a great time to whisper “I love you” or “I am so happy to be your mom.”

Here are some other ideas that I thought of:

  • set a specific time each week to spend quality time with each of your kids (you could do something as simple as play a board game or go out for ice cream)
  • turning your cellphone alerts off for texts, IMs etc…(this has greatly decreased the stress level in my household) 
  • visit close family and friends more often
  • have a starring contest to increase stamina for eye contact
  • encourage your kids to make eye contact when greeting others
  • tech free family dinners-kids are forced to make eye contact and share one high and one low about their day

And here are some interesting articles regarding the value face to face interactions.

Psychology Today article on face to face communication

“The Power of Face to Face Communication in a Digital World”-Dr. Mercola

The bottom line is, if we want kids to feel valued and loved, then we need to lay aside some things that might be getting in the way. Then we can really be present with them even in those mundane moments.

It’s worth the sacrifice.

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