Being “present” for our children has likely never been more difficult than it is today. Our often hectic schedules make slowing down seem an impossible task. While many factors impede our good-parenting goals, technology specifically has made being present for our children increasingly difficult.
As parents, we set limits for our children with relative ease. We don’t think twice about removing prized video games, iPads, or other electronics from them. We do this because we see the true need for, and benefit of, doing so.
However, living in a digital age can be difficult for parents too—maybe, even more so. Digital newspapers, books, and magazines exist for our convenience and reading pleasure. Apps—available for almost everything—help us manage daily life. Digital information abounds—from WebMD symptom-checkers to real-time banking updates. And what a benefit and blessing these technological perks can be! But, as with many “fruits of progress,” there is a downside. In fact, you might call it the “never-putting-our-electronics-down” side.
Not long ago, I visited a local park and saw several parents steadily follow their children around to various parts of the playground. Even though their children yelled “Look at me!” excitedly as they conquered slides, swings, and climbing ramps, many parents had trouble paying attention because they were preoccupied with electronic devices.
While this may not describe you, most people struggle with technology invading their lives to some extent. I know I do. Whether it’s sending a brief work email, responding to a friend’s text, or looking up “one” more thing for a quick read, the lure of technology is pervasive. In addition, people expect “immediate” responses to electronic communications, and we often feel obligated to answer immediately, whether we’d like to or not. As a result, we sometimes unintentionally neglect what, and who, truly matters most to us. This can be easy to do, but feelings of guilt often follow.
Although challenging, we must set aside time to unplug from electronic devices and to live completely in the moment with our children. During this “unplugged” time, we can truly listen to our children, hear what is in their hearts, and bond more deeply with them. In this way, we better communicate our love, and God’s love, for them. God has entrusted us with our little ones, and, though we may have important full-time jobs outside of the home, raising our children is one of our greatest and most sacred responsibilities. And, quite frankly, those responsibilities can’t be fulfilled with our heads down texting and our minds distracted.
We know our time on earth is limited (Psalm 90:12); thus, we should try to live each day to its fullest. But, our time as parents is limited in some ways too. I will always remain a devoted, loyal mother and an integral part of our daughter’s life. I will always try to point her toward the right path and away from life-altering mistakes. But, my time to teach her God’s ways, to shape and mold her into the person that He made her to be, to prepare her to withstand the challenges of this world and to stand firm on her Christian beliefs as she navigates through life, is narrow. The time to help her become that person is now.
As parents, we must choose and set the tone for family relationships. We must teach our children what is and is not acceptable. We must show them how best to manage time, exercise discipline, and enjoy things in this world with moderation. With the gift of our time, we show children what we value, not only in our words, but also in our actions. I’ve often heard that, for a child, the word love is spelled T-I-M-E. I have found this to be so true.
Taking time to digitally unplug and intentionally invest in our children is extremely rewarding. It allows us the opportunity to positively influence our children and truly get to know their hearts. It shows our children not only how much we love them, but also how much God loves them too.
Suzanne Stamboulieh is the founder of Scarlett Gray Publishing, a Christian publishing company dedicated to producing children’s books centered on God’s Word. Suzanne is a homeschooling mom living in Mississippi with her husband, Stephen, and daughter, Scarlett. Her latest children’s book can be found here.