Unplugging: People First, Things Second | Guest Post From Renée Peterson Trudeau

One of the books I'm currently reading is Nurturing The Soul Of Your Family: 10 Ways To Reconnect And Find Peace In Everyday Life by Renée Peterson Trudeau. Renee graciously offered a guest post in the form of an excerpt from her new book that I'd love to share with you today.

As you'll see, this post goes along really well with some of the things I've been thinking about quite a bit around here and have recently shared such as limiting screen time and evaluating my schedule. I love reading about this kind of stuff - taking it in, trying it out, and finding the right rhythm for my own little family.

UNPLUGGING: People First, Things Second

An Excerpt from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family

Parenting consciously and making decisions that mirror your heart and innermost values take guts, no matter what the issue is. They require an unwavering commitment to your family’s well-being, in both the short and long term, as well as weathering the disapproval of your children. As we know, it’s harder to say no than to say yes — particularly when that no goes against the norm of our culture. Your kids are not likely to celebrate the establishment of media guidelines, and you may find any rules difficult to follow as well. When we’re overworked and exhausted, the electronic babysitter is easy to turn to and always available. Yet as we’ve seen, this seemingly harmless choice can develop into a negative habit that can create an ocean of disconnection, frazzled nerves and minds, and an ongoing barrier to true intimacy.

So begin with baby steps. Invite in self-compassion. Cultivate a sense of curiosity: What would happen if I became less plugged in? How can I model this for my kids? What are some half measures and partial steps I could try? What fun things could I replace screen time with? When are the most important times when I want my family unplugged (for example, during dinner or on Sundays)?

Sit down with your partner, or with your entire family, including the kids, and discuss everyone’s priorities and values — what is most important for your family? What is essential for each individual and for the entire family’s emotional well-being? Make a list; this may include unscheduled time, physical activity, playing in nature, eating dinner together, not feeling rushed, making time for creative or free play, and so on.

Then, take a look at your schedule. How are you using your waking hours? Outside of work and school, how many “free” hours does each person have, and how much time does the family have together? For most families, this may amount to only three to four hours of free time together a day. Many families find that once they’ve identified and scheduled what’s really important to them, there’s not much time left for TV, Internet surfing, and video games.

Here are some of the ways families are taming the technology dragon. Perhaps one of these ideas will resonate as you develop media guidelines for your family. Give yourself the freedom to experiment, discarding what doesn’t work and keeping what does:

  • If you watch TV every night, try giving it up for one night a week. Then progressively add more TV-free nights each week (until you reach three or four), and instead enjoy music, reading, time outdoors, or playing games on those evenings.

  • If your habit is to often or always have the TV on as background noise, replace this with a classical music station. (My family finds this to be really calming in the morning and at dinnertime.)

  • Some families allow their kids to have screen time only on the weekends — establish a total number of hours (say, two to five) that your kids can spend however they like from Friday to Sunday.

  • Ditch the cable and only use the TV for watching family-friendly movies, either through a subscription service or by checking DVDs out of the library. Then, make a regular occasion of “family movie night” — reserve one night of the week for watching a movie you can all talk about afterward.

  • Allow for one hour of educationally oriented screen time a day, and schedule this time for when Mom and Dad need it the most, such as while cooking dinner, replying to emails, and so on.

  • Maintain a land line and answering machine at home. This way you can screen phone calls without interrupting precious family time.

  • Insist that all cell phones and electronics be turned off during meals and whenever the family is enjoying time together.

  • For the parents: abstain from getting online before work in the morning or after work in the evenings. These are natural family-gathering and transition times each day, so make your priority being present for your kids and for each other as a couple. Talk, connect, and share the day’s events.

  • Consider making electronics off-limits during everyday car rides around town. Let your child sit quietly and “get bored” looking out the window, or use travel time as an ideal moment for talking about school, friends, and what’s going on in your child’s life.

  • Avoid temptation by not getting a smart phone. These gadgets are a slippery slope, and how much do you really need all that they do? Instead, get a regular, basic cell phone with texting (you’d be surprised how many are choosing this!).

  • Move the TV from the family room, or the center of your house, to an upstairs guest room. It’s interesting to see how viewing habits change, and usually lessen, when the TV is in an out-of-the-way spot.

  • Make one weekend day entirely, 100 percent unplugged, with no media and no phone calls at all until a certain hour in the evening. Reserve this day for 100 percent family time, and make it fun: go hiking or to museums, make fancy all-day meals, visit friends or relatives, or go swimming. Initially, long stretches of unstructured time may seem hard to fill, but propose this as an experiment and give your family’s collective creativity a chance. Your older kids might continue to complain, but I bet they will secretly like it!

As parents, we need to change our own mindsets and behaviors and really take charge of the technologies in our homes. It’s like eating. You need a balanced diet. You don’t want to raise your kids on junk food, and you don’t want their whole worlds to revolve around screen time. The earlier you create healthy habits in this arena, the better. I’ve found looking at our media diet and paying close attention to what types of messages, images, and themes we’re consuming can be helpful.

Jana shared, “My kids and I had gotten into a habit — really a slump — of watching the same programs on TV every week. They weren’t great shows; it was just ‘what we did.’ One night we all ended up playing soccer in the backyard instead of being glued to the screen. I was surprised at how much better we all slept that night and how much happier everyone seemed in the morning. It really got me thinking about how I want to change our habits around TV — not only when we watch it, but what we watch.”

Plus, once the complaining dies down and kids accept a new routine, you may be surprised by what you find. My brother, a thirty-seven-year-old technology hound and dad of two, recently discovered his three-year-old son actually loves going to the library — just as much as he used to like playing Angry Birds on dad’s smart phone. Baby steps.

In fact, all the families I’ve known and coached that have made a conscious decision to set up media-use guidelines, instill boundaries, and in general “consume” less media have found this has made a huge impact on their personal well-being and on their family’s sense of peace and harmony.

Life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com.

Connect with Renée : Website | Facebook | Amazon

Excerpted from the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com

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15 thoughts

  1. Katrina Kennedy says…

    We started screen free Sundays about a month ago. It is changing our family! We are screen free from sunup until 5PM. I'm amazed how much it has naturally pulled us together, outside, and made us more active. The habits from Sunday are creeping into our weekdays as well! So important in an age of being connected, to connect with those we share space!

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  2. Susan says…

    Wonderful! We already do so many of these things (ie. no cable, no smart phones, family movie night, dinner is every night of the week with no technology, tv is rarely on (we watch tv one night a week) - but more great ideas to consider. Unplugging from all forms of technology one night a week would be a good place to start. I wouldn't mind a night of music too. thanks for sharing

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  3. Susan says…

    16 years ago I unplugged our television set, permanently. I admit that the movement started as I was morally opposed to giving my cable company any more money, but it has now been 15 years since I sold the TV at a garage sale. We read, together and separately and played board games when my daughter was younger. We exercise, go for a walk, do crafts and no one has ever said, "gee, I wish we had a TV...." I realize that it is not for everyone, but it works for us.

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  4. dawn says…

    I love this and agree with it. I barely watch tv and would much rather scrap, paint, read sadly the kids and hubby like tv. Hoping and still trying to get them to become more unplugged.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring us with these posts, keep them coming!!

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  5. alida says…

    Thanks, I've just been motivated to still keep my +/- 10 year old phone (with text only) a bit longer! If only Instagram wasn't so APaealing!

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  6. J3SS1C4 says…

    I'm not a parent, but I still think this would be interesting to read. Sometimes it's easy to neglect your partner because of the online world calling, so I've been trying to make a conscious effort over the last few months to shut down more often and spend time solely with him. I think this is an awesome principle, even if your by yourself, and I can't wait to read this book when it comes out!

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  7. Bev Mascara says…

    Outstanding book = good for all 4 daughters and their families

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  8. SherriS. says…

    Lately I've been shutting the tv off more and more. I've needed my smartphone more for gps and work emails but I've disabled the email notifications on my personal account. I think my creativity gets lost from the constant "noise."

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  9. Lynnette says…

    I love the variety of suggestions here! We are screen free on week nights from 6 to 8 pm...it's a start!

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  10. Debbie says…

    Thank you Ali for sharing this. I am going to be a grandmother twice this year as my children are beginning to have their babies. The culture today is much different, and you dear parents have some different challenges than we did. I shared this with them, it has been on heart, this article was so helpful.

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  11. Tina says…

    I think I'll pick this up.

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  12. Ilana Polakiewicz says…

    This is so true!

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  13. Gaele says…

    At home the television used to be in the living room and more often than not the tv was on, no one really watching or everyone watching some dumb or uninteresting program that was on. The tv is now in a seperate room. Its called the tv room and we only enter that room when we want to watch something specific. The kids (8 and 5) can only watch 1 film maximum (dvd or on demand) on no-school days (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday), so the tv time is very limited at our house. Now that spring is coming (or should be coming i'd rather say) and the weather is getting slightly better, the kids are spending more time outside and dońt even think about their tv time. Last sunday we went for a walk, baked a cake together, spent 1 hour and a half looking at photo albums and no one asked for a movie. The less we watch tv, the less we need/want it.

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  14. Dana says…

    Ali, thanks so much for sharing the wisdom from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family with your readers. Families are really seeking fresh perspectives and tools right now. So many of us are ready to drop old habits and patterns that no longer work and explore new ways of being. It’s good to know we’re not alone and are all this journey together! P.S. Every week we’re sharing excerpts, giveaways and articles from the book at www.facebook.com/nurturingthesoul if you’d like to check that out.

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  15. Anina says…

    Amen to that! I agree with everyones comments, and I wish more people stopped and took a look at how much time they are spending/ and letting their children spend sitting in front of screens. In our home we try to go by the old saying,'nothing in excess'. Unfortunately we do have to consider that our children's future involves a certain amount of comfort around computers, technology and social media. We have started letting our children earn more time on screens if its spent in what we consider productive pursuits, like editing videos - or writing articles for their private blogs. Who knows if we are doing the right thing, we just gotta keep paying attention and re-evaluating!

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