When was the last time you sat down at the dinner table with your family without the TV on in the background or your cell phone next to you? When someone asks, “Do you have a minute?” is that all you have for them, or do you give them more? When you are with your loved one, are you busy on your phone, focused on how many followers on social media you have, or focused on what they are saying?
I have been guilty of all of these. When I started in radio, I was told that I needed to constantly be on social media getting my name out there. Since I am a person that is motivated by numbers, I was quickly sucked into the follower obsession. All I could think about was how to gain more followers. Then one day I saw a quote that said, “Life is what happens when you put down your phone.”
For the first time, at the dinner table, I looked up and realized all of my kids were either watching TV or on their phones while we were eating. We were sitting together but not focused on each other. I couldn’t get upset with them because they were following my lead. As a parent, is that what I wanted to teach them? That their presence was not as important to me as someone I have never met but who happened to like a post of mine?
I realized that night that I needed to make a change. I needed to stop allowing distractions around me from focusing on what was important. I started changing little things, such as no TV or cell phones during dinner. In the beginning, we stared at each other not knowing what to say, but gradually we started having conversations. Out of those conversations I learned about my children. Not the superficial things that you get when you have two minutes of time, but the real things that make you realize that they are growing up. With my head in my phone, I had missed so much.
We live in a world where technology connects us to people not there and yet disconnects us from people right in front of us. We are too busy looking at pretty pictures on Instagram and yet not looking at the beautiful faces of our loved ones. We feel engaged with people we don’t know but feel even more separate from those we interact with daily. It’s not technology’s fault. We make the conscious choice to allow it to be the focus.
So decide to make some small changes. Here are some easy changes that will help you be more present with your loved ones.
- No phones at the table.Put your phones in another room during meals so you can concentrate on each other. Your kids will notice a big difference, too. Use that time to find out about their day.
- Leave work at work. Almost every job requires you to be easily available. Make an effort to have your work done before you turn off the car and walk into the house. Most jobs will wait a few hours for your family to go to bed.Remember why you are working and that is for your family.
- Put your phone in time out. Have a charging station that is not easily accessible.When you get home, plug it in and leave it.
- No TV.Pick an allotted time to turn off the TV. I suggest during dinner so you can really focus on one another. Not sure what to talk about with your family? Ask them questions. Not the kind that will give you one-word answers but ask the ones that make them elaborate. We like to ask what was one thing good that happened today. Sometimes it is just breathing (typical teenager answer), but more often than not it is something I wouldn’t have otherwise found out.
Someone once said, “Starve your distraction and feed your focus.” If you are guilty of not focusing on those around you, try making a few small changes. They will make a difference in your relationships with your loved ones.