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How to Keep Your Marriage Strong Over Summer Break

Be intentional and turn toward each other this summer.

School’s out, and my kids are excited about a fun-filled summer. Mom and Dad… not as much. Don’t get me wrong; I love summertime. But summer schedules can be hectic when you’re juggling different camps, vacations, and activities. Sure, the school year is crazy busy, but at least it’s consistent. Summer schedules are a little more challenging. Are any other parents feeling the crunch?

Summertime can add more stress to your marriage as well. Focusing on our relationship can get lost in the frenzy if we aren’t careful. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can keep your marriage strong over the summer, too.

Here are a few ways to get you started:

Date each other.

A regular date night is crucial to the health of your relationship. It can be so easy to fall into a routine in your relationship, especially when kids are in the picture. This is where date night comes in. Dating your mate takes a little more coordination if you have young children. If you don’t currently have a regular date night, now’s the time to start. Create a shared calendar on your phone (if you don’t already use one) and schedule one date night this month. Then flip to next month and plan another one. Keep it going. I mean it! Stop reading right now, and get those summer date nights on the calendar. I’ll wait…

Okay, now that you have dates scheduled… they are scheduled, right? Here are a few more ways to keep your marriage strong.

Make time for intimacy.

Before you put the calendars away, go ahead and schedule some time to get intimate. Wait a minute! Isn’t sex supposed to be spontaneous? Sure, but if you have little kids, you know the reality. Spontaneity is hard to come by. If you’re not intentional, it’s easy to let your sex life fall into the background. But your marriage needs sexual and physical intimacy. And what gets put on the calendar often gets done, am I right? So, decide how often and when and schedule it. Just to clarify, this is a conversation for the two of you. And don’t worry, just ’cause it’s scheduled doesn’t make it boring. [Read 3 Ways to Have Better Sex in Marriage.]

Share a hobby or activity.

Identify at least one common hobby or activity and make time to do that together. You may need to break out the calendar and schedule it depending on the activity. But there may be hobbies you can do at home while the kids play. This doesn’t have to be a family activity, but it can be if you both agree that you’ll enjoy it just as much.

Daily check-ins.

As you’re going in different directions, getting the kids places, and working, it can be easy to spend less time talking as a couple. Carve out some time each day to check in with each other. Maybe it’s over coffee in the morning. Perhaps it’s 30 minutes outside together at the end of each workday. 

When you check in on each other, give your spouse space to vent. If one of you is working from home while the kids are out of school, you may need an avenue to let go of stress. Give each other space to share what’s going on.

Show appreciation daily.

Nothing says love like appreciation, so don’t forget to show your appreciation to the one you share a life and home with. Here are some easy ways to show how much you appreciate your spouse:

  • Send a text telling them how much they mean to you. (Bonus points if you’re specific about why you appreciate them.)
  • Leave Post-it notes for them. If they leave for work, leave them in their bag or lunch. If your spouse stays home, hide notes somewhere they will find them throughout the day.
  • Say it out loud and often. And say it in front of others, especially your kids. 
  • Give them a break (or at least a few hours) to do whatever they enjoy most.

Invest in your marriage.

Take an online course together. There are loads of resources to help strengthen your marriage during the summer or any other season. You can focus on intimacy, communication, parenting, or other topics. Investing in your marriage now strengthens it for the future.

Speak your spouse’s love language.

If the two of you have never taken Gary Chapman’s Love Languages assessment, now is the time. We all have a primary love language, and when someone speaks it to us, we feel loved and appreciated. We also usually express love using our primary language, so learning your spouse’s love language is crucial to helping them feel loved. 

Hold hands.

An easy way to keep your marriage strong is to simply hold hands. Holding hands releases endorphins, a mood-boosting chemical. It also releases oxytocin, making you feel more bonded to your spouse. And it’s a stress reliever, too.

Make this summer a great one for your marriage. Not because of a big trip, but because you both chose to be intentional and turn toward each other.

Other blogs:

The Importance of MeaningLESS Conversations – First Things First

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage – First Things First

8 Ways To Care for Your Spouse’s Mental Health – First Things First

Sources:

Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction

Walsh, C. M., Neff, L. A., & Gleason, M. (2017). The role of emotional capital during the early years of marriage: Why everyday moments matter. Journal of family psychology: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 31(4), 513–519. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000277

Goldstein, P., Weissman-Fogel, I., Dumas, G., & Shamay-Tsoory, S. G. (2018). Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (11), E2528-E2537. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1703643115

The term “default parent” has become more popular in the last few years. Essentially, the default parent is responsible for most of their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs. If you and your spouse are parents, one of you is probably the default parent. And if you have to ask who it is, it probably isn’t you. The default parent carries most of the parenting load, which can be exhausting if you are overloaded with responsibilities.

Parenting may never truly be 50/50. 

One of you may carry more responsibilities due to circumstances or a preference. What’s important is that the two of you agree on who will do what regarding parenting. Remember, first and foremost, you two are a team. Parenting takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes both of you working together.

So, fellow default parent, let’s have a quick chat. You’re probably exhausted and stressed out (to be honest, most parents are to some extent). You may feel unheard or neglected. You may be on the verge of burnout. And you may even be resentful toward your spouse. All of this can hurt your relationship. I don’t want your relationship to suffer.

It’s time to talk to your spouse about being the default parent. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Be aware.

Awareness is the first step toward change. You recognize you’re carrying most parenting responsibilities, but it doesn’t have to be overbearing. Let the following statement sink in: “Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I have to.”

Remember that communication is key.

Good communication truly is the foundation of many solutions in a relationship. If we don’t talk to each other, how can we expect our relationship to grow and thrive? Schedule a time with your spouse to sit down and discuss what parenting looks like in your marriage.

As you have this conversation, you’ll want to keep a few do’s and don’ts in mind:

DON’T talk about this when you’re frustrated.

DO set aside a time with no distractions.

DON’T accuse or put all the blame on them.

DO express how you feel using “I” statements.

DON’T interrupt when your spouse responds.

DO listen to understand.

DON’T jump to conclusions about how you became the default parent.

DO seek to understand your spouse’s viewpoint.

Most importantly, be respectful with your spouse. Remember, marriage is a partnership, and you’re on the same team.

Write it down.

Make a list of everything you do to keep the house and family operating. Ask your spouse to write down everything they do, too. Don’t write it for them. You may think you know what they do and don’t do, but assuming isn’t helpful. After you’ve written it down, have a conversation about how best to address the imbalance.

Acknowledge what you both do in parenting and why it’s important.

As parents, it’s valuable to acknowledge what you both bring to the table. Stress the importance of what you both do. Even if you think your spouse doesn’t do enough when it comes to parenting, show appreciation for what they do for the family.

Reset (or set) expectations for who will do what.

Maybe you became the default parent because of circumstances. Maybe you stayed home with your newborn, then took on all the responsibilities and never stopped. Perhaps you have a more flexible schedule and can absorb more responsibilities. Maybe being the default parent was a conscious choice that you and your spouse discussed. Regardless of how you got here, it’s time to reset expectations. 

Own the responsibilities you take on, and only those.

Trust that your spouse will take care of what they have agreed to be responsible for. They don’t need to be micromanaged or reminded constantly. Instead, encourage them and let them know you appreciate what they own. If it’s their responsibility, it’s their responsibility. I know people get frustrated when they ask me to do something and I respond by saying, “Let me check with my wife.” But she keeps the family calendar. I’m conscious of not committing us to something without checking with her first. 

This shouldn’t be a one-and-done conversation, either. Circumstances will change, and every stage of parenting brings on new challenges and responsibilities. Revisit this conversation often to check in with and check on each other. You’re a team, and your marriage is healthier when you move in the same direction.

Sources:

Modern Marriage – Till Chores do Us Part – Today’s Parent

Roskam et al. (2022). Gender Equality and Maternal Burnout: A 40-Country Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 53(2), 157-178.

What Does It Mean to Be the Default Parent?

One parent may carry more of the load, but you can work together.

The other day, I was at my kids’ school, deep in conversation with my wife and another parent. Then, here comes our 6-year-old daughter, on a mission. She goes right around my wife to ask me if she could go play on the playground. My wife responds, “Hey, I’m right here, and Dad is talking.” This didn’t phase my daughter at all. She had a question and thought I had the answer. My wife and I are very much partners in parenting. Still, we recognize that I often serve as the default parent.

What does “default parent” mean?

Default means a preselected option. We all know what parent means. So, what’s a default one? They are the one who carries the bigger load in parenting (assuming there are two parents present). According to a 2014 Huff Post article, they’re responsible for their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs. 

If you’re the default parent, you probably already know it without thinking about it. 

Your child comes to you when they need anything (sometimes physically bypassing the other parent). 

You’re the one who coordinates the schedules, sets appointments (and makes sure they get there), nurses injuries, ensures all school needs are met, and serves as the first point of contact for school or daycare. 

You also feel the pressure to take the lead on anything new that pops up, like school meetings or appointments.

How does one become the default parent?

Sometimes it’s a choice. There is an intentional conversation, and one parent chooses that role. But more often than not, it falls to one person without a conversation happening. If only one parent works outside of the home, the other parent may become the default parent. And yes, while moms tend to be seen as the default parent, that isn’t always the case. 

Is there always a default parent?

More likely than not. One parent may always carry more of the load. Parenting will not always be 50/50, depending on your work schedule, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unbearable for one of you. Being intentional about communicating with your spouse is the only way to ensure you’re both sharing the load.

Here’s what parenting looks like in our situation. My children are both elementary school age, and my wife works at their school. I have a more flexible schedule. So, I schedule and take the kids to doctor and dentist appointments. My wife would tell you that she can count the dentist appointments she’s made on one hand. I have served on the school PTA for five years. Until she started working at the school, I served as the primary contact for my son’s teachers. I take responsibility for my son’s sports schedule. 

My wife coordinates the family calendar to ensure we don’t overbook ourselves. She’s the go-to for our kids when they are sick, but I often stay home with them if they miss school. We are fairly evenly split on household chores.

Am I really the default parent? My wife would say yes. Our situation was created mostly by circumstances. Do I do everything? Not by a long shot.

What challenges arise for the default parent?

Let’s start with the fact that parenting is difficult in and of itself. There’s no way around that. Being a default parent makes it even harder. 

Here are just a few challenges that arise:

All of this can also negatively impact your relationship. The challenges affecting the default parent can cause issues with communication and intimacy. If left unaddressed, the default parent’s frustration can evolve into contempt, which is hazardous for the relationship.

If you find yourself as the default parent and you’re not sure how you got there, it’s time to address the issue in your relationship. It all starts with communication and resetting expectations.

Sources:

How Did I End Up as the Default Parent? | Psychology Today

The Default Parent | HuffPost Life

Other reads:

I’m My Kids’ Default Parent But I’ve Made My Husband Intervene More Often

True Life: I’m the Default Parent – Motherly

Should Your Adult Child Move Back Home?

You can foster independence and responsibility while you set boundaries.

Do you have an adult child living at home part-time or full-time? Are you considering this kind of arrangement? You might be struggling as you think about how to nurture and honor their adulthood while still being the adult parent in your home. I’ve got essential principles and practical help as you set boundaries with adult children. Let’s begin by examining the adult in the somewhat strange term adult child

Everyone begins life being cared for by others. And if we live long enough, we each end our lives being cared for by other people. Somewhere in between is the chapter of life we call adulthood

Adulthood: When you bear the responsibility of taking care of yourself.

If you’re a parent, you’ve brought a child into this world who began life utterly dependent on you. But as any toddler will show you, the desire to be independent is built in. It’s human nature for the toddler to protest and say, No, I’ll do it myself. That’s a healthy predisposition. Remember: The ultimate goal of parenting is to transition a dependent person into an independent person. 

Parents raise future adults who do life themselves. 

The toddler can’t actually do it themselves, and we don’t expect them to. But when is it reasonable to expect your adult child to be responsible for themselves and no longer dependent on you?

The transition can be tricky. It typically occurs between the late teens and early 20s. How do you know when your child is an adult? Every individual is different. You know where your young adult is from a developmental standpoint. But there are some significant signposts.

At age:

18Legally accountable. Vote. Enlist in the military. Marry without parental consent.

21 – Can buy tobacco, alcohol, and in many states, cannabis.

25Rent a car. 

26Latest age they can be on most parents’ health insurance.

What do you see when you look at those numbers? From 18 to 26, there’s a window of time where adult freedoms and responsibilities kick in. Hopefully, we prepared our kids for the “training wheels” to come off during their teenage years. At 18, the training wheels are definitely beginning to come off. By the early to mid-20s, the transition is complete.

Your toddler is now an adult peddling through life on their own.

Remember: Adulthood  = Independence + Responsibility.

★ If we don’t give our adult children responsibilities, they can’t be independent and reach adulthood. This only extends their childhood and delays their maturity.

There are legitimate circumstances that may cause your adult child to be at home: College, unemployment, experiencing childbirth, illness, even a broken marriage or partnership. Our goal as parents is to promote independence through education, employment, financial stability, and ultimately, living on their own. Moving back home (in most cases) should be a temporary arrangement marked with tangible goals leading to their moving out.

MINDSET SHIFT:

Think of an adult child living at home as more like a housemate and less like a teenager. Your name is on the mortgage or lease. Sure, there should be healthy conversations. But you get the final word.

★ Something(s) To Think About. As parents, we have an impulse to do anything we can for our kids. Know your limits. Understand the healthy freedoms & responsibilities your adult child needs to grow into an independent adult. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Will there be an agreed-upon end date? 
  • What signposts can you put in place to mark educational & occupational goals? 
  • Will you be dealing with a young person who has drug or alcohol issues? Significant mental health issues? 
  • Will your child be bringing a baby with them? 
  • Despite your good intentions, realistically, can you handle this? 

Avoid problems before they happen. Address and agree to boundaries before an adult child moves back home (if possible). Put them in writing. Sign them like a rental agreement or contract

What are sensible, reasonable requirements or conditions you would have for a housemate to reside with you? 

1. They’re reasonably easy to live with. They respect you, your property, and your boundaries.

Start here. You and your adult child living at home will occasionally experience friction. That’s reasonable. They’re adult family

(If it helps, think of your adult child as a stranger who is renting a room at your place. There would undoubtedly be limits.) 

Sadly, there are numerous cases of adult children intimidating, manipulating, or even verbally and physically abusing their parents. You wouldn’t put up with that behavior from a renter. You can’t tolerate such behavior from your adult child. Basic respect is a minimum requirement. Understand what abuse is in all of its forms.* 

2. They’re a contributor, not just a consumer – a giver, not just a taker.

This arrangement shouldn’t just be a net financial gain for your adult child. It should instill discipline and be instructive. Catch this: The person doing the work is learning and growing. The person sacrificing is the person developing character and life skills. This person must be your adult child. 

What resources do they have? Income? What amount can they reasonably contribute? Tough Love Alert: If your adult child is enrolled in school, they can probably work part-time. If your adult child isn’t in school and is unemployed, their job is to find a job. 

What about time & energy? Your adult child can help with household cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and meal prep & clean up. Organize these responsibilities with systems and schedules. Focus on clear communication. If you’re providing childcare while your son or daughter is at work or school, factor that into the division of labor. (I know, I know, but this is your grandchild, right? Call up a local daycare or preschool. Understand the value of the service you are providing.)

3. Hopefully, this is a harmonious, temporary situation.

Don’t be surprised if adjustments take some time, it’s difficult, or it isn’t working out. It’s ok to feel bad if your adult child is in a tough spot in their life. It’s understandable to want to help. Maybe you can. Perhaps you shouldn’t. What’s certain is that you can’t be motivated by guilt or a well-intentioned, “I can fix this.” Let that stuff go. Be the parent your adult child needs today. To let them play video games 24/7, “borrow” money constantly, or take advantage of you is to stunt the growth of their adult independent living skills. You love them too much to do that

4. If you allow your adult child to move in with you, the situation should be right for you both.

Communicate and set boundaries upfront. Agree on how you’ll know the arrangement is working and can continue to an agreed-upon end date. As difficult or uncomfortable as it may be, communicate the signs and consequences that will bring an end to this arrangement. 

Remember: Your adult child is becoming the person they will be for the rest of their life.

*Domestic Violence Hotline

Do you feel unsafe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.

Sources:

Adult Children: The Guide to Parenting Your Grown Kids

Rules, Boundaries, and Older Children: How to Cope with an Adult Child Living at Home

Rules for Adult Children | Boundaries for Adult Kids Living at Home

Adult Children: Relating to Them in the Best Way – Dr. John Townsend

Setting Boundaries with Adult Children — Lilley Consulting

Emerging Adulthood

Resources:

7 Ways To Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions

Keys to Multigenerational Communication – First Things First

The Art of Communication – First Things First

How to Stop the Cycle of Parental Burnout

These 5 tips may be just what you need.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been stressed and exhausted many times. I’ve felt burned out and ready to quit, but not from work obligations – from being a parent.

Parenting is tough. It’s demanding. Before our son was born 10 years ago, I recall people telling me everything would change. I don’t remember anyone telling me I’d be taking 2AM walks to stay sane. No one told me there would be days I’d question whether I could continue. The list of things I wish I’d known then is long. 

Parental burnout is a real thing, but don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything. Researchers Hubert and Aujoulat found that “parental burnout results from situations where exhaustion occurs as a result of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by one’s parental role.”

If you’ve been a parent for at least a couple of hours, you know that parenting stress is real. But when it consumes you, burnout sets in. There’s hope, though. You can stop the cycle of parental burnout. 

The stress isn’t going anywhere, but there are some healthy ways to lessen the pressure.

Surround yourself with a community.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” 

I never quite understood that until we had our first child. But it’s true. Raising a child isn’t easy. Mine didn’t come with a how-to guide. 

Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you. Think about grandparents, other parents, or friends who care about your well-being. You need people in your life to help care for your child when you need it and to help you care for yourself. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or less than. Any person who has raised a child knows the stress involved.

Today’s action:

Text one person and invite them over. Ask them to hold you accountable for taking time for yourself.

Take care of yourself.

When you’re responsible for a little one, it’s easy to put all your energy into making sure you meet their needs. When they get all your energy, there’s nothing left for you. 

Have you ever been on a plane and heard the safety speech? If the airbags are deployed, put yours on before you try to put on someone else’s. That sounds counterintuitive to parenting, but it’s so true. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t have anything to give. Being a parent is the best reason I’ve ever had to take good care of myself.

Exercise, eat healthy foods, get rest (when you can), or meditate. Will it be easy? No. Is it important? Extremely!

Today’s action:

Put down your phone. Go get a glass of water, and take deep breaths as you drink. Make it your goal to do that three times today. 

Give yourself grace.

You won’t be a perfect parent, and that’s ok! We all mess up. I don’t think I could list all the mistakes I’ve made. As my kids have gotten a little older, I ask them for lots of grace, too. I apologize when I make a mistake. 

Don’t fall into the social media comparison game, either. You may see someone who looks like the perfect parent – but remember, social media usually shows the best moments. You may not see all the tears it took to get that perfect photo.

Today’s action:

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Tell yourself, “My child doesn’t need a perfect parent – they need a present parent.”

Take a break when you need it.

If your child is in childcare or school, take a day off every once in a while to be alone. Enjoy doing what you like to do. Maybe that’s getting outdoors, taking a long bath or chilling with a movie. And don’t feel guilty about it. You have permission to take time for yourself.

Today’s action:

Schedule an hour this week to take a break. Right now, ask your support system to help you make this happen.

Set boundaries. 

Boundaries help to protect your time and your relationships. You may have to say no to some good things. As my children have become more independent, I’ve found that I can say yes to more things I want to do.

Prioritize your well-being and relationships when opportunities come your way.

Today’s action:

Ask, “What have I said yes to that I don’t have margin for?” Then do your best to take that off your list.

Parenting isn’t easy, but you can do it. If you already feel burned out and have nothing left to give, reach out to a professional, coach or counselor. You don’t have to walk this road alone.

Other blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

Can Self-Care Become Selfish? – First Things First

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

Sources:

Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1021. 

Breaking through the loss cycle of burnout: The role of motivation. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(2), 268–287.

Beating burnout. Harvard Business Review, 98-101. 

The Cost of Caring Without Self-Care

How to Recover from Burnout and Love Your Life Again

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Consider these things as you set some guidelines.

Short Answer: Yes, your teen needs screen time limits, but it’s not quite that simple. What screen time limits look like depends on your teen and your relationship with them. The limits you set have much less to do with the screens and much more with the teens.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult. You’re working yourself out of a job.

Long Answer: I was waiting for the “On-Air” light on the set of a local talk show. My segment was about technology and families, particularly teens, smartphones, and social media. I was excited because:

I’m passionate about how technology affects families and relationships, so I’ve been following the research for some time. 

And I’m parenting a teen, and I talk to other parents about these issues. I’m in this with you. I know it’s hard.

My mind was on my messaging as I waited for that light to come on. What do I tell parents about screens and teens? Easy.

Emphasize parenting principles.

1. There’s no substitute (app, program, setting, filter) for a strong, healthy relationship between a parent and their teen. 

2. Talking to teens about screen time and technology is an ongoing thing. It requires talking about many other unrelated things. Things THEY want to talk about when THEY are open to talk. ★ If parents don’t put in genuine relationship work, teens won’t hear their parents talk about screen time (or just about anything else).

3. Stay informed about the technology your teen uses, but, more importantly, stay informed about your teen. Notice their moods, changes in their behavior, and how they spend their time. Is your teen generally responsible and trustworthy? Developing appropriate life skills? Well-rounded and balanced? Have things like pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying already been a part of their screen use?

4. Leading by example is essential when it comes to screen time and technology.

What is your relationship with technology? Are you modeling the behaviors you’d like to see from your teen?

On-Air! 

And to my frustration, the host only wanted to talk about kids being abducted because of what they posted online. Wow.Oh.Okay.Um.Yeah. We can talk about all that, I guess. This is the kind of stuff parents are up against when talking to their teens about screens.

What makes it HARDER to talk about screens with teens?

  • The media feeds parents a steady stream of sensationalized, scary stories.
  • The research in this area, frankly, is all over the place. (To be fair, we’re talking about relatively new and constantly-evolving technology.) This can confuse and frustrate well-intentioned parents. Examples?

I could link to studies to “prove” all of the following:

  • Screens keep teens from socializing. No, they help teens socialize.
  • Screens hinder cognitive development. No, they help cognitive development.
  • Screens hurt teens’ mental health. No, hurting teens gravitate to screens. Or, screens can help heal teens’ mental health. (I think all three can be true.)
  • Screens make it harder to keep teens safe. No, they make it easier to keep teens safe.  
  • Screens interrupt teens’ sleep patterns. No, they can help repair those patterns.

Teens quickly point out any hypocrisy between their parent’s message and their parent’s example. And teens are often more tech-savvy than their parents.

These screens on smartphones, tablets, and laptops are already ingrained in your average teen’s life. In positive, practical ways:

  • Online learning. 
  • Homework and projects. 
  • Virtual college visits. 
  • Work and sports scheduling. 
  • Connecting with family & extended family. 
  • Shopping for stuff they need. 
  • Outlets for creativity & developing new skills & hobbies. 
  • Not getting lost driving. 
  • Calling for help if they need it. 
  • Simply texting that practice has been canceled is a huge help.

A screen is a tool. How is your teen using it? True, it’s a powerful tool, but screens aren’t good or bad. And they are here to stay.

So, let’s get practical.

Here are some adaptable ideas about screen time limits that may (or may not) help your teen.

⇨ I don’t usually make a point about this, but the links in this blog take you to the info you want and need. Click ’em for some deeper practical information for screens and your unique teen!

  • Screens can isolate. Screen use only in “common areas” of the house. No screens in their bedroom. Or no screens in their bedroom at night.
  • Screens can distract. (Part 1) Screens get put to “bed” in the kitchen or the parent’s bedroom to charge overnight, so teens can read, think, and even be “bored” before they fall asleep. Teens can use old-fashioned alarm clocks. ☆ Are You Up For It?

Set the example. Everybody’s phone charges overnight outside the bedroom. You might unwind and fall asleep better, too! 

  • Screens can distract. (Part 2) “Notifications” are a phone’s way of saying, “Notice me now!” But notifications can be turned off completely, muted, put in “Do Not Disturb” mode or “Driving Mode.” Help your teen learn to check their phone when they need to, not when their phone wants them to. Here’s notification help.
  • Screens can demand. Most smartphones come with Screen Use Monitoring weekly reports. These reports show time spent on social media, entertainment, productivity, etc. ☆ Are You Up For It? Offer to compare your report with your teen’s. Make a game out of it. You can both set goals for next week!

Talking To Your Teen About Screens… And Other Things.

  • It can be challenging to get your teen to talk about anything. Here’s help. And here.
  • In general, you’re working toward a conversation with your teen, not a confrontation.
    • Try to have a genuine dialogue. Listen to your teen’s ideas and input. It’s not a weakness to collaborate, negotiate, and have some give and take. Agree to boundaries that leave room for your teen to prove they’re responsible and trustworthy. Being clear about consequences for choices outside those boundaries is essential.
  • Screens can tempt even the BEST teen into making BAD decisions – it happens. Try responding instead of reacting. Pornography. Sexting. Cyberbullying. Posting things that come back to haunt them when they apply for a job or college. 
  • Try to interact with your teen and their screens. The fancy term is “joint media engagement.” Watch ’em play some video games. Ask them to show you the funny Tik Toks. Ask about posts that confused/frustrated/angered them today? This can start great conversations.
  • Ask your teen how social media makes them feel about themselves and their life. Then listen and listen. When it comes to social media, encourage your teen to create, not just consume.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult, and screens are gonna be part of their life.

One day, you won’t be there to limit their screen time, but you can prepare them now.

Today, more than anything, your teen needs you.

FYI: I shared an interview experience that disappointed me. Check out this “On-Air” experience that went well! 

Other blogs:

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time

These guidelines can set you on a path to better relationships.

Have you paused lately to look around at our technological world? From smart home devices to self-driving cars, it’s a lot to take in. And then, we have to guide our children on how to engage with all this – and talk about screen time. It’s overwhelming to hear all the different voices, from professionals to friends, telling us how our kids should use technology. Our kids are growing up in a world where digital identities are just as real as physical ones. And it’s not like there’s a well-laid out manual for helping your child navigate an ever-changing technological world.

You may be wondering, “What in the world do I do here?” 

We can ask a different question, though. It’s this: “How can my family use technology without allowing technology to use us?”

As you make your plan, consider your personal situation. Based on American Academy of Pediatrics research, these general guidelines can help you navigate technology use in your home. 

Screen time: the good and the bad.

Screen time isn’t wrong in and of itself. It’s all about how you use it. There are many benefits to co-viewing with younger children and using technology to promote learning and conversation.

Too much screen time can be linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Lower academic performance
  • Violence

Benefits of screen time:

  • Exposure to new ideas and information
  • Connection to family and friends who are geographically distant
  • Co-viewing and co-playing with your child can promote healthy development
  • Digital tools can promote school readiness or enhance learning

Recommended screen time limits per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Birth to 18 months: No screens, except for video chats with family and friends.
  • 18 months to 2 years: Limit screen time and view with your child. Introduce high-quality educational programming.
  • 2-5 years: Limit screen time to an hour a day (outside of academics) and watch together, if possible.
  • 6-12 years: Place consistent limits on screen time as determined by the family. Ensure that screen time doesn’t impact your child’s sleep, exercise, or behavior.

Tips for setting screen time guidelines.

Be conscious of your screen usage.

The first tip is to look in the mirror. Kids learn from what they see. You may need screen time limits as much as they do.

Create a Family Media Use Plan.

Creating a plan as a family is powerful. Of course, you, as the parent, have to determine how much screen time your child has. But there is power in allowing them to craft how that looks and what other activities they can be involved in to ensure they exercise their physical and creative skills.

Utilize screen time limits on devices.

Most devices have parental controls for screen time usage. Use all the tools at your disposal.

Balance screen time with quality personal time.

Children need parental or caretaker engagement to develop emotionally and socially. Ensure that you’re balancing their screen time with your presence.

Avoid screens at mealtime.

Meals are a fantastic way to connect as a family. Focus the time on discussing what everyone’s day was like or asking questions to spur conversation.

Avoid screens in the bedroom.

A child’s bedroom is a great place to play and rest. At a young age, avoid allowing them to take screens into their room as much as possible.

Turn off all screens during family outings.

Screens can be distracting when the family is engaging in activities together. Turn off screens for all family members (parents included).

Unplug from screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Our brains need time to decompress and rest. Spend this time reading together to prepare everyone for a restful night.

What this means for you.

Your child is going to use screens. It’s how they connect with the world. Do your best to help guide how they use screen time in a healthy way. Sure, you may bend or break the rules at times. You may need to give in to more screen time ‘cause you need a break or have to get something done. That’s ok. Your child will continue to develop and grow. What they need more than strict tech rules is an involved parent. Make sure they are getting outdoors and playing and creating. If you haven’t navigated screens well up to this point, that’s ok. There’s no better time to start than the present.

Other blogs:

Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

How to Talk to Your Teen About Sexting – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Sources:

Children and too much screen time – Mayo Clinic Health System

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

5 ways screen time can benefit children and families – Child Trends

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep

Media and Young Minds | Pediatrics

Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents | Pediatrics

Hey, Mom or Dad! If you’re like me, managing screen time for your kids can be a struggle. How much should they have? What impact is that tiny screen having on their development? What about when they’re on screens at school? I get it. The questions about screen time limits can be overwhelming.

There are countless articles addressing screen time for kids. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has several age-specific recommendations in Media and Young Minds. To name a few, they recommend no media for children 2 and younger and only one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. Well, I’ll be the first parent to raise my hand and admit I dropped the ball there. 

Maybe you’re right there with me. If so, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting over the past nine years, it’s that we need to give ourselves (and our kids) a lot of grace. We didn’t get a parenting handbook the day they were born, and they didn’t get a child handbook, either. We’re all learning as we go. 

Now back to those pesky screens. They’re everywhere, and they’re part of everyday life. So, we need a plan to use them (and not let them use us).

Limiting screen time is very important for your child’s development, but limiting your own is just as important. 

Oh no, he didn’t just say that! 

Yes. Yes, I did!

You want to be a good parent. You know that the best way your child learns is through example. Your kids learned to walk and eat by watching you do it. Whatever trait they’ve learned, they learned from someone. Technology usage is no different. 

And this isn’t just about teaching your kid how to use technology effectively. It’s about you using it effectively and managing your screen time.

Setting down time from screens has many benefits

Here are just a few:

  1. It improves your physical health.
  2. Frees up time to play.
  3. Allows you to make better social connections.
  4. Boosts your mood.

Those benefits are for you, not just your kids.

I know I’m asking a lot. Don’t worry, I’m looking in the mirror challenging myself here, too. I need to set better screen boundaries for myself. 

So, where do we start? 

Here are a few ways you can help set limits for the entire family.

1. Create tech-free zones in the house.

Talk to your family and create some tech-free areas or times at home. The dinner table is an excellent place to start. Make a rule that while you eat dinner, no phones or TV. But what are you going to do? I’m so glad you asked. Take this time to ask questions. Check in on each other’s days. Grab a list of random questions and work through those.

2. Establish tech-free times. 

Maybe you can have a weekly game or movie night. A movie involves a screen, but you can put all other devices on airplane mode or away while the movie is on. Implement those movie theater rules. Set aside times for you and your partner to be tech-free after the kids go to bed. Be intentional about your time together.

3. Turn off notifications.

Turning off my notifications was one of the best things I ever did with my phone. The only notifications I get are messages and the weather. When your notifications are off, you choose when you use the technology. You don’t let the little ding dictate your usage. Researchers have even proven the little notification ding gives us a shot of dopamine.

4. Track screen time.

This one is for everyone. Most phones or devices have screen time or screen health settings. Track the usage for the family. Set sleep times for all devices and limit screen exposure before bed so it doesn’t interfere with sleep quality. Monitor what you use your device for and when. 

Modeling healthy technology use for your kids will help them in so many ways. Remember, not all screen time is bad, and there are plenty of creative ways to use technology as a family. Just being intentional about your usage and setting some limits can create positive change now and in the future. 

Other helpful blogs:

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

Sources:

https://ifstudies.org/blog/is-our-addiction-to-pleasure-destroying-us

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/5-ways-slimming-screen-time-is-good-for-your-health

https://www.verywellfamily.com/cut-kids-screen-time-for-health-621154

https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/13/why-you-should-be-reducing-screen-time-and-3-simple-tips-to-do-it.html

https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162591/60503/Media-and-Young-Minds