The importance of family communication
Sep 4, 2013 / 5:00 am
On a recent trip to the US, my wife and I were seated in a Japanese restaurant with a family of five we didn’t know. A chef cooked right at our table providing added atmosphere and entertainment. During the hour or so that we sat there, every member of the family were constantly using their smart phones. They were not talking to each other or interacting with the chef who was trying his best to engage the kids.
While this made for a somewhat awkward dinner hour, we quickly noticed it was not an isolated event. As we began to watch other families in various venues we saw the same thing repeated over and over. This is a sad and unhealthy change in our culture. People are becoming more and more isolated and seem to be more interested in communicating with people who are not physically present than those who are face to face.
Cell phones are not the only problem – many tune out with ear buds listening to mp3 players or become totally engrossed in playing a portable video game and do very little to interact with family members who are sitting right there.
Don’t get me wrong—I love technology, I have an iPhone, tablet, and use computers extensively, but there is a time and a place. There are times when it is more appropriate to put them away and interact with the people you are with.
In my practice I speak with parents every day who are distraught about their teenage children who spend all of their time at home shut away in their rooms visiting social networking sites or playing video games. Some continue this even when they are finished school and should be looking for a job. They seem unconcerned about the future and are making no efforts to develop a career, further their education or develop an in-person social life.
Less and less do I hear of families doing something as simple as having meals together while telling each other about their experiences of the day. When there is no communication, the very fabric of family life is gone and one wonders what the point of even having a family is. When problems develop with poor school performance, drug abuse or oppositional behaviour, there is nothing that a parent can do without a relationship. If the child is not interested in your opinion or approval, you don’t have much to work with.
The seeds of these problems that often occur in adolescence are sowed in the family environment during the earlier years. It is the communication and relationships that are established in these younger years that provide a basis for having some influence when young people are developing their independence.
It is very important to get to know your children. Take the time to listen to them and find out what they are doing. Don’t allow complete isolation in the home, We all need our private time but kids should not be watching TV, playing video games or social networking to the exclusion of everything else. It is also probably not a good idea for kids to have everything they need in their rooms so that they never need to come out and join the family.
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