Today is the last day of “ski break” on my side of the world. Our school has an annual week-long recess on Washington’s Birthday, and the students like to call it “ski break”. This ski break was especially long for us: due to a COVID-19 outbreak at my 4-year-old’s day care center, we had to start ski break a few days earlier. But we couldn’t go ski, because my little one had “close contacts” with a child who tested positive for COVID-19, and we were told to quarantine at home.
On the first day of this long ski break, I found myself facing a dilemma. It was the beginning of the lunar new year, the busiest time of the year for those who work for a Chinese or Taiwanese company. I work for a Taiwanese magazine as its U.S. correspondent. Facing the extra long ski break with absolutely no activities, I was overwhelmed. The kids had nowhere to go; I had to “go” to work. What should I do?
My little ones didn’t have a ski break camp to go to like they did in previous years. I told them we’d have a “Mama Ski Camp” at home. Since I actually had to work everyday, the Mama Ski Camp turned into a Mickey Mouse Ski Camp, and my two kids watched Mickey Mouse Club House on Disney Channel every day throughout the ski break. I became anxious about screen time: I didn’t want my children to watch too much TV or play too many video games, but what could I do?
Towards the end of the ski break, I made an announcement that the rule of no TV on weekdays would be restored once school resumed. On the last two days of the ski break, we’d be playing a game called “weekend without screen time.” My third grader quickly adjusted, but my preschooler seemed to have a hard time. He kept shouting: “I want Mickey Mouse! Mickey Mouse!”
I worried that I’d ruined my youngest son. But when I consulted my pediatrician, he said we need a more flexible screen-time guideline during these extraordinary times. The American Academy of Pediatrics website has an online tool that provides customized family media plans based on the age(s) of the child(ren). I checked it out, and found we were still doing a good job in some aspects: phones and tablets were never brought into the bedroom or onto the dining table. My 4-year-old doesn’t use apps without permission, and my 8-year-old doesn’t communicate with strangers online.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the focus should not be on the length of time children use devices, but on whether parents can choose media that is appropriate, and co-view or co-play with the children. In our house, my husband and I always carefully choose programs for children to watch, but it’s hard for us to accompany them when watching (guilty!).
I have to confess that it’s been almost two years since the outbreak of the pandemic, and my sense of guilt has gradually turned into a numbness. When I review the current official screen time guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I feel that they are based on the “normal times”, and that we need to rethink screen time in the time of a pandemic.
I thought I was an expert on screen time. I write an education column that focuses on screen time. I’ve authored a book on digital citizenship which is scheduled to be published this June. Then the pandemic happened and everything I believed was out of the window.
A little more flexibility in screen time guidelines does not mean giving up parenting. I think that during this extraordinary period, we should be more concerned about our children’s emotions and less obsessed with how much TV they watch each day. When implementing screen time rules, we should focus on balancing online and offline life, rather than counting how many video games they play each day.
With a little more flexibility, this long ski break became a lot easier.
Do you have screen time rules in your family? Have those rules changed during the pandemic?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit to the author.
Those moments, when you are driving the carpool to swimming or to soccer, and the children in the backseat are talking about you while having forgotten your presence, merely inches away in the front –those are the moments of truth.
Over the past few months, there has been plenty of discussion in our house about the coalition war which is taking place just across Jordan’s borders. We have talked, constantly, about the important work that my husband is doing with the UNICEF Jordan office and how children, just like our own, are being forced out of their schools and homes because of the continued fighting in Syria. As all parents do, we try to explain why we do what we do and live as we do.
Despite claims by my children that I am brainwashing them about making a better world, I always felt the need to repeat these conversations, over and over again, because I never really knew how much our children internalized. And then I drove the carpool.
From the backseat of our Prado, the conversation went like this:
D – How long will you be here?
C – Oh, we’ll be here for five years because my dad has important work to do with UNICEF helping kids.
D – We will be here for two, and then the Embassy moves us back to Washington. Do you have a Wii?
C – Yeah.
D – Do you play Grand Theft Auto?
C- No, I’m not allowed to play violent games. My mum is all about peace. One time, I tried to convince her that the games with guns were really for hypnotizing the other guy, but she didn’t believe me. In her last job, she was the principal of a peace school.
In that moment, I knew he understood.
He knew why we are here and what we stand for as a family. In many ways, I felt my job as a mother was done. I could pat myself on the back and feel proud of the work my husband and I had accomplished. Until I heard the rest of the carpool chat.
D – You know Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare?
C – Yeah.
D – Maybe your mum will let you play that because it’s not really violent, it’s just plants.
And then I knew, you can be the Peace Mum, but you can’t stop having the conversation.
What are the repeated conversations you have with your children to share your values and beliefs?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Photo credit to the author.
It happens every night when I lay my head on the pillow. I replay many of the day’s events back over in my mind. “Was I good friend, wife, sister, daughter, etc.? Was I good mother to my children? Did I set a good example?”
However, the events which have been playing over in my mind more and more frequently are the times I am not sure if I really listened to my children. “What was it my daughter was telling me about a friend of hers at school as I was hurriedly sending a text to my friend? What was my son showing me that he learned on his new video game as I nodded and pretended to see him play it while I sent an email?”
I know we all get caught up in this thing called life, but are we really present for our children?
At any one minute during the day, I feel like I have a laundry list of things to get done. A lot of times, I find myself sitting listening to my daughter read, and I am making a mental list in my mind of what I need to get from the grocery store. When I’m driving the kids to school, and they are in the backseat laughing, I am thinking of the things I need to get done that day while they are in school. What were they laughing about? I don’t know because I wasn’t really listening. And, that makes me a little sad.
I know one day, I’ll look in my rear-view mirror and they will be in junior high and then high school and they won’t be my little children anymore.
I have read so many articles and talked to so many friends about our kids being able to pay attention to what we, as parents, say. We have talked and discussed how too much time on electronics isn’t good for their attention. What about us as parents? It became crystal clear to me a few weeks ago when I took my children to the park. My son was on the swing, and I received a text from a friend. I was replying to her text while my son was saying something to me and I remember nodding and saying “Okay.” It turns out that he asked me if I would pay him a quarter for every time he jumped off the swing. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me I had to pay him $4.50 for jumping 18 times!!!
These past few weeks, I have been thinking about how I have approached mothering, and I think I had something wrong. For some of you this may not be earth shattering, but for me it was ground breaking. And here it is…I will never be done with a grocery list, laundry list, cleaning, cooking, etc. There will always be broken things which need fixing and plants needing to be watered.
I was approaching things in my mind as things to check off like a list. I was thinking of my days as a destination, and that just isn’t how life is. In my head I thought if I get that grocery list done, then it is complete. If I finish this load of laundry, then it is done. But, the truth is, neither of those tasks are ever done, and unfortunately, I feel that I have wasted some of my precious time with my children using that approach.
I have started to look at my life as a journey and to try to enjoy it more along the way.
Coming to this realization has freed me to sit with my daughter and just listen to her read for 20 minutes without my phone right next to me. I don’t have to answer texts right away. I am able to watch my son play his new video game and show me his new trick because the laundry will always pile up, and I can get to it after I take 10 minutes to listen to him. I am waking up 10 minutes earlier to get lunches packed so I can talk to my kids in the morning while they are eating breakfast. I am taking a little of the pressure off myself to get everything done. I am getting most things done, and the things I don’t get to can wait until tomorrow if it means I can have some extra special moments with my kids.
I have found that slowing down my mind and my “to-do” list have made me a bit more calm, and in turn, it has helped me to be in the moment with my kids. Every night, we have dinner together and there is a “no toy and no electronics rule” at the table. It’s a time for our family to really listen to each other and make sure that we have a few minutes to “check in” all together as a family.
The one thing that won’t always be there are my 5 and 8 year olds. They are only like that for one year and then they just keep growing and growing and there isn’t anything I can do about it. As I look at them in my rear-view mirror, I want to know that I have really enjoyed them and not regret not spending precious time with them.
Do you have a way to really be “in the moment” with your children?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Photo credit to the author.
Last month, I “unfriended” someone on Facebook for the first time. In fact, I had to Google how to unfriend someone. It was December 21, one week after the horrific massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Like most people in America and around the world, I was shaken to my core from the events which transpired on December 14, 2012.
Not only could I not fathom what must have been going through the teacher’s minds on that terrible day (even though I was a teacher myself), but I could not get over the twenty first graders who were murdered. I could not even look at my own first grader for weeks afterwards without getting teary eyed thinking of the parents who would not get to hug and kiss their first graders goodnight.
That is why, when I logged on to my Facebook newsfeed and saw three of a Facebook friend’s children, ages 6, 4 and 2, holding semi automatic rifles under a caption which read “This is how we do Christmas in Texas” one week after the Connecticut shootings, that I could no longer have that person as a friend on Facebook. A line had been crossed, and I could not look away.
Some may say I made a rash decision and I should not “unfriend” someone because of one post, but that post in particular was so upsetting to me that there was no other possible action I could take. I just knew I didn’t want to see it on my newsfeed again. I understand that people have guns to hunt and I respect that, but I do not and most likely will never feel that guns in the hands of young children, even as a joke, will ever be okay with me. Yes, even after being escorted all over Lagos by armed guards and being around guns on a regular basis, I do not feel that guns in the hands of children are ever okay. (more…)