Resolutions You'll Want to Keep

6 tips to reset your family time.
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Melanie Hempe
Snow or no snow, resolve to make your family time count!

When the clock struck twelve on January 1st, millions of people vowed to change something about their lives.  Actually, to be more specific, over half of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution.  They resolve to be more financially stable or become holistically healthy or travel more, but the sad fact is that according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 8% of people will be successful in their resolutions this year. While there are many reasons for this, one underlying reason is an inability to focus and ward off distractions. For example, you had every plan to get up to run this morning but you decided to check your email and the rest is history. The fact is, our screens are programmed to pull us away from other things in our life. Since screens play a big part in our inability to stay on track, consider resolutions that focus on helping you find ways to unplug from your screens on a regular basis to give you a healthier and balanced life this year. Here are some family-friendly ideas to get started:

1.  Read more books this year and read together as a family.

Read at least 30 minutes a day and make it a family affair. Give your eyes a break from the screen light by turning off your electronics and reading a real paper book. Gather the kiddos and cozy up on the couch with a bag of popcorn or use that time to read out loud with your children (remember they are never too young or too old for this).  After you read, discuss your books together right away or at dinner. This will help to build comprehension skills in your children while encouraging greater family attachment at the same time.

2. Set HARD screen restrictions for everyone.

If getting rid of all entertainment screens in the house isn’t something you are ready to commit to, set strong restrictions for all to follow. For example, at 6 p.m., all electronics go off and time is spent together as a family. Talking, cooking dinner together, doing chores or working a crossword puzzle together are all better for your brains than being glued to a screen that time of day. You can always fire your ‘parent screens’ back up after the kids go to sleep, or not!

3. Vow to learn more about social networking this year if you let your kids on it.

Do you know more about social media than your fifth grader? Chances are your kids know about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Of course, you have heard about them also, but do you know your way around them?  If your children are on social media, you should know much more than the basics. Actually, you should become an expert. Parents must stay on top of the social media world if they are going to equip their children to use social media well. There is no way around it.

Parents also need to realize that kid privacy on social media is a thing of the past; if it is on social media, it is public and parents should not be the last to know. Your kids want privacy with their friends? Tell them to call their friends on the phone and actually have a real conversation; that can be private. Maybe this is the year that your kids take a break from social media all together. Yes, many families are choosing to go SMF (Social Media Free) or choosing to have one family social media account instead of allowing their kids to have private accounts.

4.  Make real in-person connections with friends every week.

Whether it be via a phone call or face to face, stop staring at a screen and connect with someone personally. Invite a friend home from school at least once a week and make sure that everyone leaves their phones in a basket on the kitchen counter.  Brain science tells us that 90 percent of communication is nonverbal which is why in-person contact is best and our kids need the practice. Screens are fine for managing logistics but screens can’t replace the real life personal connections that we all need to build. And remember, teens should first do the hard work of developing friendships in person before they move them to a screen.

5.  Get lost in a bookstore, a library, or a museum once a week.

Leave your screens at home and take family trips to these places. At the bookstore or library, talk about the displays, look through some books or browse through the magazine rack. Rest. Be silent. 

6. Get outside more as a family.

Pack up the car and take the kids hiking. There are plenty of places right here in Charlotte. Make it a real adventure and leave the cell phones behind. The point is to slow down and take a break from the overstimulated brain activity that all screens bring. Everyone needs to move more, your kids need more attachment opportunities, and parents need to spend time building connections with their kids of all ages.

Getting off the couch, out of the game room or home office, and getting outside more will be the best thing you do. It can be as simple as taking a family walk after dinner or making plans to get out of the house once every weekend. It is worth any effort it takes to get everyone moving and having fun together as a family.

Science tells us that screen overuse is stressful on both our brains and our bodies. Constant mental stimulation with little physical movement is a toxic mix. Our kids need more non-screen time to connect with family and develop into successful adults. With more awareness and a few small goals, it can be easier than you think to get back on a balanced track. Check out Families Managing Media for more ways to rethink your family’s digital diet, and for inspiration to reset your screens and reconnect with your family more this year!