By Marianne Vernacchia
Marriage Family Therapist
Cell phones, laptops, and the internet all strive to keep us connected. But is this really what’s happening? We can multi-task like never before, but sometimes we are so busy multi-tasking that we loose touch with what’s right in front of us within our own family. Remember when driving in the car together meant time to talk, share thoughts, even sing together? Now children often sit in the back seat for safety and are silenced by Gameboys while a parent sits up front chatting on the cell phone drinking Starbucks. How about when a family would routinely eat dinner together at the kitchen table and talk about their day? Now, a parent will often work until 8 p.m. or after school activities run late and we hit the drive-thru instead. What about when parents and kids usually sat together in the living room to relax, play a game or watch t.v. together? If you have teens, somebody is inevitably on the computer, while someone else is watching t.v., and yet another is upstairs texting, on the phone, or both. If this doesn’t fit at all for you and your family – congratulations you’re the exception!
While we may not want to go back completely to the “old days”, it is important to pay attention to how modern day life has chipped away at our connectedness to each other. The busier and more accessible we are, the less it seems we are truly spending time connecting with family. In divorced families time with parents is especially diluted and single parents who have to “do it all” are stressed and looking for a way to disconnect and take a break.
If you are feeling too disconnected, overly busy, or not communicating with your kids, you may want to make some changes. Numerous studies support the idea that teens who feel genuinely connected to healthy adults are less likely to have a troublesome adolescence. The landmark National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health completed back in 1997 showed us that teens who feel connected to their parents and/or their teachers are less likely to use alcohol and drugs, behave negatively, experience depression, give in to peer pressure, and are less likely to commit suicide. Spending the time to connect with your teen is crucial during the teen years. It makes parents accessible to kids and kids accountable to parents. It builds a foundation that allows for connection on a deeper level as kids grow and change into adults.