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Stop Texting, Start Talking

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

As everyone is getting ready to go back to school, we went out for the last “family dinner” of the summer.  The beginning of September signifies the “new school year” which makes it the best time of year the time of year to talk about new routines.

I was enthralled by the table next to us as there was a mother and her 3 children who were enjoying dinner. I happened to look over there at one point only to notice that the mother was reading a People magazine while all 3 of the children were on some sort of handheld electronic device. They were all engrossed in their own “electronic” world and they were not talking to one another at all!  I just sat there watching them as I kept thinking that this was just the beginning of their meal?

Unfortunately, they continued their entire meal, rarely speaking to one another. Occasionally, a child would say, “Mom, Mom” and the mother would put down her magazine for a moment and respond with a one or two word reply, only to go right back to her magazine. The entire meal was a testimony to the fact that “we” parents need to be engaged with our children.  I couldn’t stop watching (my husband was not happy with me).

This made me think that as we are off to a “new” school year we parents need to put down our electronic devices, or documents or our papers and pay attention to our children. Our children also need to put down all of their devices (I am not savvy enough to name all of them, iPhone, iPad, DS, iTouch) and we need to TALK.  Even if the conversation does not have a lot of substance, it really makes no difference. It is the fact that we are talking to one another and making eye contact and listening. I (myself) am sometimes guilty (I know my own children are reading this) and we need to have a “family moratorium” that there will not be anything except conversation at dinner. No electronics just good old family time.

The time we have to spend together with our families, especially during the school age years, is all too fleeting. Make a resolution to enjoy family meal time, whether at home or at a restaurant, and talk about the day. Even if your child acts bored, or uninterested they will remember the mealtimes together. Especially if there is conversation.

How do you engage your kids at dinner? I would love to hear your commetns!

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