Flatscreen Tablet

Grandkids and electronics, oh my!

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I believe my role as a grandmother is to keep my mouth shut. I sure didn’t want my parents trying to interfere with what I thought was best for my two children.

My approach worked pretty well while the grandkids were infants and toddlers. Now they are between six and nine. I babysit them regularly on the weekends.

We all spent President’s week together on a great vacation. Except those kids only had their faces out of their electronic devices to swim and sleep. (I know the oldest one was in there playing games long after his little sisters fell asleep.) They were even plugged in during dinner.

It drove me crazy! I felt such a disconnection among all of us. Of course, my daughter was on her phone a lot too, so it’s pretty easy to know where they’ve learned this.

I told myself to cool it, it’s the way of the world now and that it isn’t my place to stick my nose into it. But I fear the next time we spend this kind of time together, I might explode. I just think it’s terrible. Why don’t their parents see it?

Please tell me how to keep my mouth shut?

Biting tongue off

Dear Reader,

Yikes! No wonder you are about to bite off your tongue! I’m sorry that what should have been a fun vacation week was so nerve wracking for you.

I think you’re on the right track. Neither your children or grandchildren want to hear about the perils of electronics. (If they ask you, however, have at it, in a respectful way!) Every generation confronts differences and it’s best if responses are tempered.

But you can establish some ground rules for your home, no matter how old the visitor might be. (Yes, this means your daughter and son-in-law, since they are modeling behavior that is feeding into the problem for your grandchildren.)

Here is a new rule to consider implementing when your family visits: All electronic devices, phones, tablets, televisions, etc. are turned off when visiting. This includes the ones in your home that you live with. (Note that this also means you can’t skip into the den and check your email! Kids are quick to pick up an any consistencies.) Too drastic? You’re tree to make any exception you’d like, i.e. limited screen time, television after dinner or a DVD to watch. You decide.

Now what? Will you have a revolt? Perhaps but everyone will survive! How? You will be offering a host of fun, challenging activities to keep those kids engaged. Plan things like: craft projects, cooking experiences, nature activities, physical games, science experiments, scavenger hunts, etc.

You will need to make sure they just have free time for exploration and creativity. Sure, they may howl, especially if they’ve already begun to lose the ability to entertain themselves, but it’s your house. Hang tight. Have plenty of ideas for them and all of the necessary materials.

Don’t blindside any of them with this. The next time you’re over at their home, explain the new approach. No finger pointing, no lectures. Say something like “You kids are growing up so fast. When we are together, I just want to soak up as much family time as we can” and then explain what you have in mind. Ask your daughter to respect your wishes, as you do hers.

It will be a whole other ball game when they are adolescents. Sadly, this is when grandchildren begin pulling away from adults. But grandparents often have an advantage over parents! Hopefully, if you can establish this approach now, it won’t feel all that odd to them in a few more years and you’ll be able to enjoy your connection in all its glory!

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