Episode summary:

In this episode, Susan shares aha moments from leaving her cell phone off for a month, reflecting on how we can help our children develop a healthier balance with technology by leading the way.

Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.​​​​​​​ www.susanstiffelman.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

 

  • The value of a digital pause—and why it’s hard to maintain
  • How to handle anxiety when we’re unplugged
  • Bringing more intentionality to our use of technology

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Read the entire episode!

Transcript:

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m your host, Susan Stiffelman. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence and I’m really glad that you’re here. About a month ago I turned off my cell phone. Now I only meant to keep it off for the weekend. I thought one thing led to another and it stayed off for weeks leading to a lot of different insights and aha moments that I wanted to share with you here. Please don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that everybody throw their devices away, but I do think that it’s good to look for ways to manage that constant and very intense pull from the digital world both for ourselves and for our children. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. But first I have a special announcement about an upcoming masterclass that I’m going to be offering online with Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and I think you’re going to want to know about it, the class is on February 25th but as always we have the replay available and the audio download if you can’t make it.

 

Speaker 1:

So I’ve collaborated with these friends and colleagues before, but this is the first time that the three of us are going to be teaching together and I think it’s going to be a really wonderful session. The class is called The Power of Showing Up and we’re going to talk about some of the most interesting elements of attachment science and how we can strengthen our kids’ resilience and their confidence. Even if we weren’t raised with parents who were tuned into our needs. And if you’re listening to this podcast, I invite you to use coupon code ShowingUp20 for a $5 discount and the S and the U are capitalized. So ShowingUp20 for a $5 discount. You’re probably familiar with attachment parenting, the ideas of staying close, meeting children where they are responding to their needs in a compassionate way. And you may know that research pretty consistently demonstrates that children who are raised with a secure sense of attachment lead happier, more well adjusted and and satisfying lives.

 

Speaker 1:

But not all of us were raised with that kind of parenting. And that makes it harder for us to instinctively show up with kindness and patience and acceptance and love. When our kids, you know, misbehave or challenge us in some way, we might react intensely and angrily if they refuse to cooperate, we might pull away when they want us really close. Maybe we resent their needs and demands when our own need for support seems to be going unmet and then we can pile on all the negative feelings that we’re failing as a parent. So this cycle just perpetuates itself, making it harder for us to really be present and show up for our children in ways that deepen attachment and strengthen our child’s sense of self and resilience. So the class is going to be fantastic. I encourage you to go to SusanStiffelman.com and it’s right there on the homepage.

 

Speaker 1:

We’re going to talk about how we can show up more fully for our kids even if we didn’t have secure attachment with our own caregivers. We’re going to talk about why it’s not useful to aim for perfect parenting. It’s actually not only unrealistic, but it’s actually detrimental. We’ll talk about how attachment affects neuro-plasticity and the child’s developing brain and so much more. So visit Susan stifelman.com and use showing up 20 for the discount. And of course you’ll get the opportunity on my website to sign up for the free newsletter that has lots of parenting tips and support and all the other masterclasses are at susanstiffelman.com like the birds and bees in the online world, Handling homework, raising highly sensitive children and Helping Anxious Children Thrive. So there’s a lot of resources for you. They’re on the website. Now let’s get started.

 

Speaker 1:

At the end of 2018 our family lost a home that we had had for nearly 30 years in the Southern California wildfires. And soon after the fire, almost immediately after the fire, we were thrown into a process of figuring out how to rebuild, which meant that day and night there were text messages and emails and forms and pages with regulations going back and forth with family and designers and engineers and city officials and contractors. It was really nonstop and even though I had previously worked pretty hard to keep a balance with technology and made sure I had plenty of downtime during this rebuild process, I got into the habit of checking my cell phone throughout the day of so I wouldn’t leave somebody hanging or hold up the project. Well, by the time the house was finishing up about 15 months after the fire, I was really tired, not just physically from everything that went into the rebuild, but also mentally and emotionally from having to spring into action and make thousands of decisions while also processing this loss.

 

Speaker 1:

So after it was pretty much complete one Friday, I decided to take a break and to turn off my cell phone for the weekend. I knew that anybody who had to reach me could use the landline, so I just let myself enjoy the peace and the silence of no pings, no beeps, no alert. It was so relaxing, so nice to just take a walk or wander through a bookstore and know that I wouldn’t be randomly interrupted. Really wonderful. Well, come Monday morning, I could not bring myself to turn it back on. I kind of felt like I was waking up from a dream, like I had been missing out on big chunks of my life by being so tethered to my device. My mind felt quieter, less on, you know, my nervous system was settling down without the constant adrenaline that comes with every new bit of information or update and I just felt more present for my life.

 

Speaker 1:

It’s pretty great to go somewhere beautiful and not be tempted to whip out your phone, to take a picture, to just enjoy it. I got together with friends in person or I had long phone conversations the way we did in the good old days and I felt myself listening more deeply. For sure there were inconveniences. It’s great to be able to take a picture from the grocery store to see what kind of salsa my husband would like or to use ways to get the best route if I’m driving through traffic. But it turned out that even though I have a really full and active life, I could actually function without my cell phone and one week led to another and I realized how much I had needed that digital pause and somehow figured out how to function without it. So it’s been a great experiment and I’m hoping that as I ease back into using my phone as a great tool, I can set my life up to feel less used by it.

 

Speaker 1:

And that’s the thing. If you’ve got kids, you know how pervasively we use and are used by our digital devices. I’ve heard that the average adult checks their phone 80 to 300 times a day according to research from rescue time, which is an app that monitors phone use. Adults spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. And common sense media reported that teens spend an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their phones with tweens, kids, eight to 12 not too far behind at four hours and 44 minutes a day. So think about what you’re not doing while you’re doing that. And of course when it comes to parenting, screen-time arguments are probably at the top of the list of what we struggle with. Kids refusing to unplug when we suggest that they go to bed or that we have some family time and it’s hard.

 

Speaker 1:

It’s a really difficult dilemma. This navigating of the digital world, I don’t think any of us could have imagined how intense that attraction would become to that little squirt of dopamine that that we get when we check our phones, the anticipation, the excitement, and then the novelty of something new always being available. In fact, there’s a phrase in some of the cell phone company promos called always on data plan. And that’s the thing we’re always on. Our minds are always on. We’re always preparing for the next message or the next thing we’re going to need to respond to. So we never fully rest. And as hard as that is on us grownups, it’s really having an impact on a child’s developing brain. So if we want our kids to develop more balance in how they use technology, we’ve got to lead the way. And that means demonstrating our own willingness to take digital breaks and to talk honestly with our kids about how hard it is to unplug for us.

 

Speaker 1:

And that means that they’ll be more open to telling us what comes up for them when we suggest that they cut back, that anxiety they might feel if they don’t respond to a friend or the fear of missing out all of those elements that make it so hard for kids to reduce their dependency on their devices. We have to show them how to do it. I know this is a touchy subject in that many people will find it ridiculous to deprive yourself of your phone when it delivers so much convenience. I get it and I trust each of you, you know, to do what’s best for you in your situation. But if you had been feeling as I was worn out from the never ending stimulation and adrenaline that your cell phone delivers, think about whether you can give yourself a little digital vacation. So let’s wrap up with a tip this week.

 

Speaker 1:

See if you can leave the house at least for a short errand without your phone or leave it in the car if you feel safer, but don’t take it into the restaurant. See if you can go three or four hours without her or maybe try signing off email and social media account on your phone so you can only check from your computer for a day or two and stay present for whatever comes up for the discomfort. Be prepared for your mind to come up with a lot of reasons why you should check your phone. It’s not easy to resist that temptation when something is so stimulating and even addicting. So be open and be welcoming and nonjudgmental as you allow whatever feelings or sensations to arise. If you have your phone off and then before you do check your messages or your alerts, just take 10 seconds to ask yourself, is this what I want to do right now?

 

Speaker 1:

Is this what I want to do right now? And you may follow up by saying, and why is that? What need am I fulfilling by checking my phone right now? Staying present, allowing whatever the answer is to be whatever it is without judging it or scolding yourself, just becoming more aware. Sometimes the answer will be yes, you do want to check your phone. You’re waiting to hear from someone about something that’s time sensitive, but sometimes you’re going to be able to interrupt something that you’ve just become habituated to doing and you may not check the phone. You may notice your discomfort or the frustration at not getting that little hit of stimulation. You may just breathe or step outside to take a moment to just be where you are. Just be friendly toward whatever comes up for you when you explore what it’s like to more intentionally use your devices.

Speaker 1:

So that’s it for today. I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Whether you agree with these ideas or nodding. I always think it’s good for us to take a few steps back and look at how we’re using technology and make sure that it’s based on choices that we’re making and not habits that we’ve unconsciously adapted. So remember, visit SusanStiffelman.com to get the newsletter, or if you want to find out more about my upcoming class on The Power of Showing Up with Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson, that’s going to be a fantastic class. And please remember to use coupon code ShowingUp20 for a $5 discount. I’m glad you’re here. I love that we get to have these wonderful conversations about parenting. Remember, you can subscribe to this podcast to get notified when we release new episodes, and it’s a great help if you can leave a rating or review or tell a friend, and I look forward to joining you on our next episode. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. I’ll see you next time.

 

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