When parents practice good screen habits, it reflects on the whole family

The antidote to this powerful lure of technology is twofold. One, healthy screen habits, and two, the broader family elements that lead to greater well-being, connectedness, and sleep. We think of these elements as daily vitamin doses that will keep everyone FOND of each other:

Family Rituals: Teenagers become more independent, but they continue to need the primary attachment to family. As kids get older, it’s important to protect the rituals of eating together, movie night, Sunday morning walks or throwing a baseball, bedtime routines, and so on. Rituals are different from spontaneous moments together, which are also important because they are predictable and lead to a sense of belonging and security. Too often we see families grow apart while living under the same roof, and this is reinforced by electronic media. Research has shown that children who spent more time on off-screen activities, such as face-to-face social interactions, sports or exercise, print media, and attending religious services, were less likely to experience mental health problems. These real-world routines and rituals have clear benefits and help our children develop a healthy sense of self-worth, purpose, and connection to our family and community.

Open game: Play is an intrinsic human drive and it is essential for the brain. Through play, children learn to solve problems, increase their creativity, hold their attention and feel joy, satisfaction and satisfaction. The problem is that play (of its non-digital variety) can easily disappear as children get older. Most people know that small children need to play, but as they get older, we respect this need less and less. Psychologist Stuart Brown has been researching play for decades and has found many links between play (at all ages) and our happiness and fulfillment as individuals, resilience, flexibility and connection with each other as social beings. And says, “Nothing lights up the brain quite like play,” says Brown. What play is is that it is done for fun and exploration (not necessarily an organized sport). Building a model robot, finding random materials to make a hangout, climbing a hill and rolling down, or just riding a bike around the neighborhood are examples. “The opposite of play is not work,” says Brown. “It’s depression.” Play is part of happiness and it makes our kids, teens and us as adults feel more regulated, connected and healthier – it’s basically an anti-depressant and should be protected as kids get older. Playing – especially outdoors – improves our sleep. What’s amazing is how natural the drive is to play, so promoting it doesn’t have to be fancy at all. All you need is the ability to play: time and space away from screens. When children are together, without screens, they instinctively play together (as they get older, they just need some warm-up time). Don’t worry about the complaints of boredom or the reluctance to go outside. Over time, the urge to play takes over.

Nature: Being in nature has been shown to lower levels of stress hormones (which also help us sleep), increase cognitive skills and improve mood. One study found that thirty minutes of gardening significantly reduced stress chemicals, even more than reading for the same amount of time. Another found that walking in nature reduced activity in the part of the brain responsible for rumination (constantly thinking about something that’s bothering you). Sunlight early in the day stimulates the brain to become alert, increasing mood-enhancing neurochemicals and deepening our sleep into the night ahead.

Downtime: When every moment of your day is taken into account, there is no opportunity to get bored, have a new idea or have a spontaneous experience that is not prescribed. Downtime is easily suppressed by a busy family life, but we find that having some downtime built in each week helps everyone feel better. It sounds counterintuitive to schedule downtime, but that’s what most families need to do, and it works well.

The combination of healthy screen habits and FOND family elements improves sleep by nurturing family connection, fun and meaning, and putting us in control of our devices so we can enjoy their benefits and then put them away.

“Generation Sleepless” authors Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright
When parents practice good screen habits, it reflects on the whole family

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