PANDEMIC PARENTING STRUGGLES WITH ELECTRONICS & BOREDOM
It comes as no surprise our lives have truly transformed since that fatal day in March of 2020. For me, it was Friday the 13th of March. Yeah, that superstitious part of me held on tight to the brooding date for obvious reasons. As a mom of two and suddenly having to pivot work to accommodate fitness online for a predominantly older population, life went nuts when the whole family ended up home for a two week quarantine in March.
Did we have enough toilet paper? No. Would we be alright? Yes.
As we suspected, the two weeks turned into much longer and as parents, we didn't get any relief until our children went half remote by the end of May, just in time to finish out the school year in the classroom two days a week. For my family, we struggled to make friends and find our place, moving here Fall of 2019, just months before the pandemic hit.
With the house, neighborhood, and schools so new, parenting came with plenty of struggles. Too much electronics even after a school day on electronics, high level of emotions, bouts of sadness, the grief of missing old friends and lacking new friends, and even the over-dramatized optimism to cover over the reality of life. It hit us good and plenty but left us with some battle wounds needing repair. Mainly and electronic refresh--er reboot.
The picture here says it all. Everyone is on electronics. My son is on the tablet and my daughter is watching TV, probably YouTube unwrapping videos of L.O.L. dolls.
Any device or strategy to keep the kids from interrupting the parents at work in various rooms of the house. Anything to make those kids not worry or feel the underlying stress hour reductions at work, not being able to see friends, and navigating school online.
As parents, we didn't want our kids to feel the anxiety of a pandemic hitting the country or the mass panic that ensued, so we succumbed to their pleas to order a new toy, let them watch 'just another 30 minutes of YouTube', or play Roblox with friends on the tablet.
My children came to expect the gifts and unlimited time on electronics. They had a one-track mind. When we decided to take them away after limiting them, it was obvious when they sat around a house full of Legos, dolls, several STEM project type toy sets, an entire close of crafts, that our kids lacked the simple pleasure of... the little things! Nothing excited them like electronics or new toys. Determined, we stuck to our guns and prayed those kids would find their little imaginations and learn to find happiness engrossed in a project for hours.
Life for Mom and Dad became a record on repeat: I'm bored, what can I do? Our answers: Figure it out!
As a parent born in the '80s, I can't recall being that into watching shows or playing video games, despite their coolness factor as a 'new' thing. Every activity was born out of boredom, created out of wisps of imagination, and enjoyed for hours. No sudden dopamine rush from the surprise opening of a new doll or the excitement of online gaming with thousands to choose from, just good old-fashioned dirt and dolls for this gal. I've made a point to aid my kids in rediscovering their childlike wonder because this addiction to watching YouTubers and playing Minecraft is out of control.
We know we aren't the only parents suffering from this. A simple Google search will bring up many articles and listicles on tips to get your kids off of electronics or how YouTube is affecting kids.
It's exhausting to listen to your 7 year old roll around the floor for an hour saying how 'dumb' his parents are or how 'stupid' his time limit is on the tablet. My 10 year old hasn't asked about electronics much, though she has this idea that for every craft, she only does one 'craft' then decides she needs something new to do or she's 'bored'.
I can say this, stick to your parenting guns, pick your poison, and you're going to go the distance. Just be patient with any new set of rules that are implemented and be prepared to follow through on the consequences!
Kids between ages 11 and 14 are spending more than a 40 hour work week on screens! Holy $%#@! This is according to the CDC. There are more age groups in average screen times listed on this link for the CDC, but I found that amount of time completely nonsense. Working on a computer, I get sick of screens, yet these kids do it willingly.
If you're looking for ages and appropriate screen time allowances, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a great list of recommended times by age group. Their guidance gave me wings to finally implement structure with screens.
Here's what we did and we are still learning as we go, tweaking as needed, and working to fully rid our kids of the constant issue with boredom or addiction to electronics.
Limiting electronics as a whole to an age appropriate time frame. See here for guidance. We have the limit to 1 hour each day for tablet and YouTube time combined and allow free range for regular TV programming unless that's all they've been doing that day. My kids are aware of the limits and restrictions at this point and often ask first before touching the remote.
We no longer purchase new toys unless it's a birthday, Christmas, or our kid has saved up to buy something. The caveat there: if the kid forgets his or her money when you're at the store, you're outta luck. Perhaps this isn't an issue for you at all, then awesome job parents! For us, I would (pre- pandemic) take the kids with me to Target when hubby was still at work and let them grab something from the dollar section. The problem is they think they get to buy something every time we went to a store and bribing us by saying we'll only be good 'if you buy us this toy' became commonplace. (I know, my kids sound peachy, not manipulative in any way, right?)
When our kids whine that they are bored we have two ways to approach it. You could tell your kids if they complain they are bored, they owe you a toy for donation each time it is said. You must collect this toy right away for it to be effective. It doesn't matter what you're in the middle of Mom or Dad, you must. We started this way and it backfired (but also went well) on us when the kids handed over tons of donation toys. One turned into many, I guess. The best approach for us has been a limit of two activity suggestions for your kid who doesn't know what to do. If neither seems good enough, you kindly remind them you have a list of chores (age appropriate) that can be done. Usually, my kids will not come back and ask me what they can do, or they know I'll hand over a broom. Sometimes, my children will surprise me and actually choose to do a chore because they're bored.
Not making a big deal or continuing while the drama ensues. Yes, there will be drama if your kid is actually addicted to watching these ridiculous YouTube gamers or unboxing shows! As long as the child isn't being downright disrespectful, I let them scream or be upset (Because it's okay to be upset about losing something you love, right?). If it bothers me, I leave the room. If they're being disrespectful, I stay calm, pick up my child, then let them be upset in their room until they can calm down. These are just the ways I handle the backlash from removing my kids from their tantrums. You ultimately know your kid the most, so be cognizant of this and do what you need to help them through this transition. Let them figure out their own feelings and work through them. You cannot do this for them.
Not a long list. If there's anything I could teach other parents is to give their new methods a full shot by sticking to them for well over a month before trying something new. Especially if you're kids are stubborn like mine.