Every morning like clockwork, I hear the loud whir of our smoothie machine. Music is playing in the background. Our dog barks. The kids come down the stairs and the conversation begins. The home is filled with sound.
These are happy sounds. I realize someday when the kids are grown and gone, I will miss the constant noise and activity.
But when there are pockets of silence in the day, I feel relieved. I can catch up on life. I can think. Silence isn’t just golden in the movie theater. Silence is golden in the middle of the day whether you’re at home or at your workplace. Adults need silence, and so do kids.
Yet modern life seems allergic to silence. We fill elevators with music, vans with DVD players, and restaurants with screens. You can even watch TV while you pump your gas. There are earbuds of different shapes and prices, so you can tune out the world and listen to exactly what you want.
Technology at our fingertips has transformed our environment. Emails, texts, posts, articles, and likes are ever-present, many of them signaling their arrival with beeps and different tones. Digital presence is everywhere. Pockets of silence become harder to find.
We know that too much noise can produce stress and tension in the body. The prefrontal cortex of the brain – the part that’s involved in decision making and problem-solving – can get overloaded by the noise of an always-on digital life. Research shows that silence has the opposite effect. Silence releases tension in the brain and body, producing a calmer, cooler you.
One study by doctors Bernardi, Porta, and Sleight based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain revealed that two minutes of silence is even more relaxing than listening to calming music. When your brain in idle and external noise is taken away, you can more readily tap into your inner thoughts, emotions, memories and ideas.
If you notice your child seems to be stressed out and anxious, perhaps the solution is as simple as silence. Kids don’t experience a lot of quiet when the TV or radio is on in the background, or they’re playing video games. Restaurants and play spaces can be noisy and screen-filled. Unplugging at home and especially before bedtime gives a child needed moments of quiet.
My co-author of Growing Up Social, Dr. Gary Chapman offers this in praise of being still:
“Life has to be balanced. Most of life is going to be scheduled, but there needs to be some time when you don’t have to be doing anything. There’s a place for getting a bucket of water and putting a stick in it, and stirring it around.”
Kids are often running from one activity to the next. There is no time for stirring around a stick in a bucket of water. We have things to do and places to be. In our free time, we don’t sit quietly. We pick up a device.
Something valuable is being lost when our children are too busy for quiet moments. In the quiet of the day, a child or a teenager can reflect on their experiences, to discover more about God, and to think about their dreams and aspirations. They typically don’t make sense of their world while posting on social media or playing a video game. They reflect on their purpose and values in moments of quiet.
So the next time you reach for a device to occupy your child or to fill the home with noise, press pause. Opt for silence instead. Tuning out the noise of the world helps young people develop the ability to reflect, mature, and dream.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life and Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right. Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.