Somebody broke into our house and stole our TV. My dad never replaced it. That was in 1971.
With no TV my dad, a high-school coach and sports nut, would listen to football and basketball games on his clock radio. I had a radio too. It was shaped like Snoopy.
We had a home phone. It was attached to the wall. I think it was green; just like our oven and our fridge.
My mom had an adding machine and a typewriter. She could type so fast it would make my head spin. I loved that sound.
Today, my family’s story is slightly different. We have three flat screens, four iPods, three cell phones, three tablets and five computers. Wow!
Technology has made our lives different. It has defined our family differently too. Especially when a lot of the tech we own belongs to our tweens.
To be fair, if you’ve been around here at all you know that we use computers and TVs in our homeschool classroom. We don’t own a gaming system and have very few game apps. However, all this tech still makes for some very interesting conversations.
Here are 10 things I never said growing up:
1. Mom, I don’t know where so-and-so lives, just Google the directions.
2. I’m going to FaceTime with Grandma.
3. Don’t worry that you forgot your camera mom. Use your phone.
4. Oh, you’re looking for a calculator? Ask Alexa.
5. If you want the recipe look it up on Pinterest.
6. Ask Siri.
7. We missed our show mom, let’s watch it on ___________(insert your favorite streaming service here).
8. I’ll text you when I need to be picked up from __________(insert event here).
9. Mom, you can meet so-and-so’s mom on Facebook. Just do a live together.
10. Mom, my BFF’s birthday party is this weekend. Can you please order her present on Amazon so it will be here tomorrow?
I know, there are about two million other things you could add to this list and I hope you’ll share your list either here in the comments or in the Real Fun Family Facebook group.
But, there’s a larger issue at stake here. Technology has changed the conversations and the dynamics of our relationships, especially on a family-unit level.
We no longer use our voices as our only, or even primary form of communication. We text, we email, we video chat sometimes within the confines of our home.
Last week, my tweens were video chatting with friends on their computers. Meaning, each of my tweens were on their own computers in the same house and both of their friends were on their computers and tablets in their house. They don’t even share a webcam anymore. Sheesh!
So, what does this mean for us as parents?
We have to be extra diligent about face-to-face contact and communication because there no substitute. With this in mind, I’ve got three suggestions for keeping family communication lines open between you and your tweens and teens in this tech-heavy world. (Please note, it’s never to late to start these.)
1. Institute a “Safe Table” policy
At our house the kitchen table is a safe place where anything and everything can be talked about. It’s also a “tech-free zone” when we are sitting around it all together or with company. Our kids know that when we are sitting around the table they can be open, honest, curious, and free to speak their minds.
Sometimes, we even go to the table to have one-on-one conversations because that is ALWAYS a place of open dialogue and unconditional love. There is no judgement at our “safe table.” We allow all questions and answers. We read together there. We laugh together, play games, talk about uncomfortable topics, and explore life together, around the table.
As our kids are growing older it would be flawed for us to think we are going to have family dinners around the table every night. This doesn’t work when dad travels for his job, soccer practice ends at 7 PM, and youth group starts 30 minutes after basketball ends.
However, we make it a practice to eat together on all of our free nights and to spend time around the table on Sunday afternoons with friends and family. During the summer our “safe table” moves outside around the fire-pit.
Wherever your safe space is, make it a habit to spend time there as a family. It will improve your family communication and keep your relationships strong.
2. Get Away From The Routine
My husband recently took our son on an overnight work trip. Unbeknownst to us our son was dealing with some significant issues on his own. The trip opened the floodgates of his emotions and even uncovered some anxiety. This was very unexpected for both my husband and me but we are grateful for the opportunity to walk next to our son during this time.
We were so entrenched in our routine neither of us could see what was happening right in front of us. We weren’t trying to be dense we were just caught up in the middle of our busy lives. Getting kids to practice, youth group, lessons, and other activities had become our normal.
It took a break from our routine to uncover some important issues we need to deal with as a family and as parents of a tween.
Give some serious consideration to taking time away from your routine to sit and talk with your kids. If you have more than one, take them separately. Go away for a night or a weekend. Take a road trip together. The earlier you do this the more natural it will be to plan a getaway as they grow older.
Keeping your family communication lines open is the goal. This is a great way to do just that.
3. Use The Power Of The Written Word
Sometimes, kids can’t verbally articulate their feelings and emotions. They may feel conflicted and confused. Figuring out how to verbalize what they are feeling or thinking is just too difficult. It’s okay. You just need to know this is a possibility and then be prepared.
During times like these it’s a good idea to have a form of family communication that allows your tween or teen to express him or herself privately, away from heated emotions but in a way that you can see how they are feeling and then respond appropriately. The beautiful thing about this is again, if you start early enough you can make this a regular part of your family communication plan. And it’s never to late to start.
With technology today your plan may include a shared journal, a private blog, video not posted to social media, or even texts. However you decide to communicate make sure it is private and shared between you and your tween or teen.
In our house, I pass a small journal back and forth between myself and my kids. I have one for each of them. Often we just write encouraging messages to each other and leave it next to the bed for the other person to read. But, during difficult times we can communicate how we are feeling. It helps us to leave the emotion out of the equation and air our feelings in a safe yet effective manner.
Raising tweens and teens is difficult and can be challenging. But, with a few helpful tools in your tool box you can help make this time together easier and more rewarding. Your relationship is forever. Do what it takes to keep the lines of family communication open.
How do you ensure strong family communication with your tweens and teens?