They make it too easy for us. Those little, technological geniuses. They are attractive, sleek and oh-so entertaining. We stare at them endlessly and find so many benefits to using them.
Smartphones, tablets, smart watches and other technological marvels; they help us learn independently, engage in conversations with people worlds away from where we live, collaborate on HUGE and wonderful endeavors, and…
AND, they prevent us from knowing – truly knowing – the ones with whom we share our daily lives. I already envision teenagers too caught up in their online friends to care about a relationship with me, their mama and the one who loves them more than they will ever know.
Some would say to the moon and back.
I would say I love them too much to let an attractive piece of technology come between us. We are the parents, right? We get to be accountable for how our kids learn to use technology. Check out this post by Trisha Goddard, who shared with us how her family handles technology.
But I also know that it’s a lot easier to change a bad behavior when you replace it with a good one. Instead of just putting my phone in timeout, I want to also replace that time with intentional activities to engage with my family. Here are a few ideas to get your family talking:
1. Work With Each Other
I remember distinctly stacking wood with a good friend and conversation turning into a revelation of our worries, hopes and fears. Could the same work with our kids?
Like John G. Miller mentioned in Parenting the QBQ Way, working with our kids gives them an opportunity to open up on their own time, AND instills in them an important sense of responsibility – something we KNOW we want our kids to develop. It also establishes a routine of talking while we work so that as our kids grow into teenagers, they might keep talking to us in this setting (we hope!).
2. Eat Dinner Together
This is a given. I adore that my husband finds dinner time to be so important. I have heard that family dinners get harder as kids get involved in activities, but if we preserve this time together, it will give ourselves a guaranteed hour each day to share our hearts with each other.
3. Make or Get a Conversation Jar (or App!)
Sometimes we are just stumped for what to talk about. A conversation jar contains little slips of paper or popsicle sticks with questions intended to get us talking! Glennon Doyle Melton posted a great article on creating your own conversation jar.
There are also great apps out there that mimic conversation jars. One of them is called Conversation Starters – Make Every Day Count by Focus on the Family. Considering gender, age and topic, this app ignites conversation that is relevant to where you are at with your kids. So much fun.
4. Read Books/Devotionals Together
There are so many benefits to reading with our kids, but reading devotionals or other books that ignite conversation? That is an added bonus and a way for us to establish a pattern of sharing thoughts with each other as our kids grow up. One of my favorites is Five Minute Devotions for Children, given to our family as a gift.
5. Make Plans Together
As parents, we tend to take on the role of planning family activities, when and what to eat, where to go for weekend family fun, what chores to do first and just about everything else.
Why not sit down on a Sunday evening to make a plan with our kids? Even if they only provide input for one week, day or even afternoon per month, they will be learning to manage time and compromise with others as they figure out what the upcoming week is going to look like.
6. Cook or Bake Together
This is something I grew up doing with my mom and sister. When the three of us got baking, the conversation started flowing. I cherished this time together and hope to build similar memories with my girls.
7. Go on Family Walks or Hikes
There is something about nature that inspires people to be real with each other. That must be why retreats so often take place at nature centers or cabins in the woods! Get outside with each other. Have fun and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Open your Conversation Starters: Make Every Day Count app if it helps, but don’t use that phone for anything else!