Mid-October is the season for haunted houses, Halloween parties, repeat trick-or-treating and all things related to fall.
So many difficult topics have invaded our news feeds and TVs over the past month that it feels like a welcome change to focus on something else.
There's a time and a place to worry about nothing more than carving a jack o'lantern. This is the first year we've decorated our home's exterior for Halloween and my sons know we can disengage from the news cycle to enjoy jumping in leaf piles together.
One of my biggest fears as a parent is to look back with regret, to feel like we missed everything in front of us in the present turned past because the screens flickered too brightly and overshadowed what was really important. I predict that we'll realize it's because the children couldn't yell any louder, capture our attention more than our apps' breaking news chimes. I won't care about these news items a year from now and my children won't remember their best day of Netflix.
Basically, this time of year is a sprint into the holiday season, with activities back-to-back for weekends to come. If you're looking for something lighthearted to celebrate autumn, click here for MetroFamily's variety of lists.
I can only speak for myself but I am the first to raise my hand and say kids aren't the only ones who find it difficult to limit screen time.
Here are three tips to keep the peace:
- Schedule a screen-free time: At our house, we can't talk over the TV during dinner. I literally can't split my attention to focus on both at the same time. There are no phones allowed then either. And honestly, I try to keep that disconnected time long past the evening meal is done. I'm okay with some music during clean-up but other than that, no screens. I would like to establish a "no screens after 8" rule since many studies show that blue light interrupts sleep but we're not there yet and by "we" I mean, mostly the "we the parents."
- Limit FaceTime and distractions that ding: My oldest son is 10 and he FaceTimes the neighbors who are literally 30 feet outside our door. When I hear that familiar ring, I send him to their house. Clearly, both children have free time at that moment, so they can exchange that dial tone for a doorbell and head outside. None of my children have Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or Whisper accounts so we've eliminated the need to check dinging notifications.
- Tie screen time to a successful routine: This school year, I started something different: tablet and Netflix time is directly tied to how successful each child's morning routine was. They know there's not screen time after school if the morning didn't start with each child in his seat, with his shoes on and with all necessary school gear loaded. It's just not happening if they apparently need more time in the evening to get ready for the next day. Chores have to be done too and no screens go on before sunset. We're progressing. It's a process to get used to the concept but those natural consequences put the responsibility back on the child.
Fall Break gives us a chance to enjoy community in ways we otherwise wouldn't. If you're looking for local camps or classes, there are still a few around with openings. Find them here.
Have tips to share for how your family balances screen time? Write to email@example.com and we just might share them here.
Enjoy fall, together!