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Parent without distractions

We are living in very busy times falling in the age of instant communication and gratification. If we want to know the weather forecast, we jump online. If somebody needs us, we instantly get a call on our cell phone, a text message or an e-mail. Many people feel the need to constantly Twitter and Facebook what they are doing. I shamefully admit my daughter learned to say “cell phone” as fast as she could say “Elmo.”

Every day I have parents in my office who tell me they won’t answer their phones but need to leave them on in case it’s about their children (who are in school at the time). For many, their phone will ring several times and they are constantly distracted. As I parent, I also like knowing I can be reached in case of an emergency. But I start to wonder how parents and children survived before without this instant connection. The answer is, we did just fine.

IF a parent can’t participate uninterrupted in a brief therapy session, do their kids ever get their undivided attention? In fact, I have kids complain to me each week about their parents always being on their cell phones, Blackberries, and computers. Some of these same parents express concerns to me about the time their children are texting or spending on the Internet.

One way to begin addressing so many interruptions and develop stronger parent/child bonds is to create some one-on-one special time with your child. Special time is a period in which the child gets undivided attention. No distractions allowed. The time can last as short as 10 minutes or as long as you have. This time can be playing with toys or activities that the child chooses. Try creative or constructive toys such as blocks, Legos, doll house, or puppets. For older children, try doing puzzles, build a model, toss he ball or go for bike ride. In general, try picking activities that are noncompetitive in nature. One important rule for special time is neither the parent nor child uses anything involving a screen (cell phones, video games, television, etc.) Possible distractions should be accounted for beforehand. Try to schedule special time two to three times a week with each child.