As a single mom, my relationship with my daughter is my top priority in a long list of to-dos everyday. I would do anything for her well-being, and I try to be intentional about giving her my best each day but like most parents, I make mistakes along this journey.
Like most parents, my plate is full. At work, my days are long and busy, and I often come home maxed-out and exhausted. Before I arrive home each night, I do my best to switch gears and put on my “mom” hat. I don’t want my daughter to feel the weight of my day when I arrive home. I strive to have our evenings be happy and peaceful. Our normal way to approach that is to let her play on her device while I’m preparing dinner, and sometimes, even while we eat. When we do that, we talk in basic bits, “Hmm? Yeah. Huh.” Until recently, I didn’t really think much about it. I thought we needed time to decompress after the day – her on her device and me essentially not engaging.
But when I went to the START program, I heard other parents sharing about how they were concerned about how attached their kids were to screens and how that attachment may be leading to more serious consequences, and it made me get curious: Is that us? Are we addicted to our devices?
So, in a moment of truth, I decided I would test it. I took away her device for a weekend, and what I saw fascinated me. I am no addiction expert, but with only the mention of device removal, concerning symptoms appeared; symptoms that seemed to appear to resemble addiction. I continued with the full removal of the device for the entire weekend. She displayed immediate stress, agitation and anger. She couldn’t cope. That weekend, I began to realize that this was a more serious situation than I had originally thought. I didn’t want this type of response for her. I had to do something.
After we made it through that initial weekend (and it did get better as the weekend progressed), we discussed a fresh approach. We were going to become more digitally healthy. I decided to limit her screen time to 30 minutes a day, and while she wasn’t thrilled about the idea at first, she took it as an upgrade over the weekend she had just had without screens.
I will admit, the first few evenings, it was hard for me to enforce the 30 minute limit because it meant I had another battle to fight when all I wanted to do was wind down. But, because of our new rule, my daughter started finding her way to the kitchen, hanging out with me at the dinner table, lingering a little longer each night. The conversations had more substance (6-year-old substance ☺). We discussed happenings on the playground and bus, what her teacher talked about and finally BOYS! We connected about the things she is noticing, learning, and feeling about the world. I realized that it wasn’t just me who was missing out; it was both of us.
I am so thankful for the START parent program, where I found support from other parents who were going through this same struggle. It helps so much to know that I’m not the only one who is struggling with this. It gave me courage to take a step I otherwise wouldn’t have taken.
There is absolutely a time and place for devices. At times it is still hard for us to honor our device free zone. There is always a temptation to pull them out when we are tired, but it’s getting easier. The START parent program re-grounded me. It helped me reinforce the message that one of the best places to go when we are tired and need to unwind is each other—not our screens.