Be Well Be Happy

I became part of an environment with three kids, ages three, five and seven, where electronics were just a way of life. It was a common practice for us to hand them the iPad if they were bored, if we needed a minute to get something done, or if we were traveling anywhere further than a block.

It wasn’t until a year ago when we were headin g out the door and the youngest yelled, “How could you forget to charge my iPad?” At that moment, we were done with their expectations on electronics. We were being trained by children to always provide a stimulant and ensure they were charged and ready to go.

The next day, we called a family meeting. We let them know that the only time they were going to be allowed to use their iPad was when we would be at the gym. Max time: one hour per day.

The first 30 days were the hardest. They were going through withdrawals; we didn’t know how to occupy their attention or their time. We quickly realized how hard it was—however we couldn’t go back. They wouldn’t believe anything we said if we went back on our word.

So, we dug deep. We listened to the whining, the complaining, the temper tantrums. We have never been told so many times how terrible we were. After about two months, everything started to change. They stopped asking.

We started with a deck of cards and board games. Then puzzles, hide and seek, bike rides, and capture the flag.

The summers are the easiest. We can get on bikes and go down the boardwalk. We stop at all the parks and before we know it, we’ve spent six hours outside. The winters can get a bit challenging because we didn’t allow our lack of iPads to be replaced with spending money on entertainment.

We have advanced to camping in the woods for two weeks in the summer, and a conversation jar to learn more about each other.

Of course, we watch MasterChef Junior, however we keep our TV time to under five hours per week. And for the past six months, the iPads have been replaced with books at the gym.

Now, we begin and end each day with mood meters, and our dinners involve compliment circles. Not all days are pretty, and sometimes they don’t want to participate. They do fight more without the distraction of a screen—yet we also never seen them play so much with one another.

Just by listening to them, we learned they love to cook. The oldest has us participate in any sport imaginable. And the youngest loves puzzles.

Our goal is to take it one day at a time. We know cell phones are on our horizon. For now, we are going to enjoy them being little and not worry about social media. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

(Submitted by Helen Kilgallen and Paulette Mancuso with understanding the author chooses to remain anonymous)

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