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As a parent of three boys aged 11, 16, and 19, I fully understand the challenges of screen time. Pulling out a tablet is often the easiest thing to do when your child starts to fuss. I know that I have been guilty of this with my own children. However, there are plenty of alternatives that are safer and more effective in the long run.
By now, you have probably heard the recommendations about limiting screen time for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against relying exclusively on media to calm children because it may interfere with their learning how to manage their emotions on their own.
In fact, playing games and watching videos can backfire. Some studies have found that excessive screen time contributes to behaviour issues, including hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulties with paying attention. With my own personal experience as a parent, too much screen time causes all of these issues with my own children.
What can a parent do when kids are bored at home or about to throw a tantrum at the supermarket? This article will give you some strategies how to calm your kids without a screen.
Steps to Take with Your Child
Limiting screen time can be a tough job when you’re surrounded by devices at home and away from home. But there is hope!
Be prepared with a variety of technology-free responses that you can use:
Give your child your full attention when they need to talk with you. If circumstances prevent that, let them know you want to sit down together as soon as possible. Always validate their feelings, even if you disapprove of their behaviour.
Allow Them to Feel Their Emotions
Teach your child that strong emotions are natural and normal. Give them a chance and the time to find their own solutions. They’re more likely to settle down faster if you stay calm. I often remain present and in the same room as my child until they able find their calm and regulate themselves.
Arrange Play Dates
Solitary screen time sometimes crowds out social experiences that are essential to your child’s development. Encourage your child to hang out with friends and participate in after school activities.
In addition to teaching responsibility, routine tasks can be soothing. You can prepare meals together or assign each child a day to vacuum. There are plenty of age appropriate chores that you can assign to your children.
Keep books around the house and use your library card. I make it a point to keep books and magazines all over the house.
Nature and exercise both relieve stress. Take a family bicycle trip or play catch in your backyard. In the winter, we love to go outdoors and skate. Being outdoors is one of my favourite activities to find inner peace. As a mother with children that have ADHD and autism, this activity is always a hit and it gets the excess energy out of them.
Expressing creativity is another way to relax. Browse online for project ideas and re-purpose household materials like fabric and gift-wrapping paper. My favourite online place to find ideas for crafting is Pinterest. You will find plenty of DIY projects on this platform.
Introduce your children to meditation and yoga. You can walk around your living room slowly chanting happy words. You can also do simple stretches and breathing exercises together.
Children engaged in excessive screen time tend to go to bed later, fall asleep slower, and get fewer hours of sleep each night, according to The National Sleep Foundation. Set a curfew for turning off electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.
Steps to Take by Yourself
Your children pay more attention to your actions than your words. Consider how your daily habits affect your children, so you can provide a positive role model for them.
Try these strategies:
Interact as Much as Possible
Your time and attention are the most valuable things you can give to your children. Plan family activities and one-on-one outings. Staying connected will help your child to feel safe and calm.
What are mornings like at your house? Children are more likely to cooperate when you plan for enough time to avoid rushing around. I encourage my children to prepare for school the night before. For example, lunches are made, school bags ready by the front door, and clothes set out.
Design a Family Plan
Negotiate a media use contract for your family. Agree to basic rules for using electronic devices, so you can make technology your ally.
Nickelodeon and Super Mario can be fine in moderation. However, teaching your children to manage their emotions and entertain themselves offline will prepare them for a healthier and happier life.
How much screen time do you allow your children to have each day?