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How To Be Present When it Really Matters 

We’ve all had the experience  of zoning out scrolling on our cell  phones.  Whether we are information seeking, scrolling for the next great video, or reading emails or texts on our smartphones, it has become the norm for people to be glued to their phones for many hours of the day.


This practice has become so ubiquitous that it is affecting many things – someone even coined the term “tech neck” since we are so often looking down at our phones.


Postural problems and pain aside, there is a much higher toll to this practice of our phones ruling our lives.


I often observe parents walking with their children, or carrying babies while they are catatonically fixated on their phones. It looks as if the child or children are just there as fixtures. I can only imagine what that must feel like for the children.


While it’s great we now have so much information and entertainment at our literal fingertips, it comes at a high price for many.  The price for some is already evident in strained relationships, an increased feeling of distance and disconnect from those we love, as well as ourselves.


But the highest toll is yet to be exacted.


The toll of all the missed opportunities of staring into our babies and children’s eyes.

Our children will unwittingly pay the high price of having one or more parents that by the addiction of technology will wonder why they have such a hard time feeling connected, feeling seen, feeling like they truly matter. 


Parents wonder why they feel such a disconnect with their children, why their children won’t listen or pay attention, and then just label their child as unruly, uncooperative, or they slap an ADD label on them and go straight to medicating them before even considering the root of this.


With my counselor hat on, I will share a story.


I had a client share recently that growing up, her parents would ask her and her siblings to read aloud to them.  But as soon as she began to read aloud, her parents would shift and start doing their own thing.   This left my client feeling alone, uncared for, and unseen.


Your children need you. Your partner, if you have one, also needs your time, and attention.  That means learning how to be present. Additionally, learning how to be there for yourself without the distraction of a cell phone is equally important.


What is the fall out of not being present for ourselves and with others?


 -Our relationships stay transactional and shallow.  Humans were created to have safe, deep and meaningful relationships.  We humans from the time we are young, need to BE SEEN, and FEEL SEEN, to be known and to be delighted in.   This does not occur when the people we count on ( parents and caregivers) are not present.


-Kids will conclude that they must not matter much when a parent is not present with them.

This often creates insecure and anxious children who either internalize that they are not good enough ( to be seen and delighted in) so they often withdraw, or act out to get the attention they crave.


-Adult partners may begin to act out as well, especially if they lack communication and coping skills. We are wired to pursue what we need.  The problem is many of us don’t know how to ask in straightforward ways, so then people act out their feelings of inadequacy, not feeling seen, etc.  This can look like yelling, demanding, controlling, sarcasm etc. It is important to note,  these behaviors can occur for other reasons as well.


Relationships at home and work may continue to deteriorate and we don’t understand why.

While relationships can be complex and have many influences that determine their quality and satisfaction, not being present is often at the top of the list.  We cannot engage with another human if we are barely there, unable to really listen and hear what another person is saying, and reading their body language as well.  A lack of presence over time creates disconnect.


So, what can we do since so many of us are truly addicted to having our phones in our hands nearly constantly?


-       Create increased Awareness- How often do I truly have my phone in my hand?  What are my habits with my smartphone?  Do I tend to be on it around my partner? My children, or my boss or coworkers?

-       Create a new plan for cell phone usage.  That means choosing intentionally what time of day, where you will be, who will be around if anyone, and what your intent is for being on your phone. 

-       Create a schedule for the above and follow it.  You might give yourself 10 minutes in the morning after kids are off to school to check texts and emails.  Perhaps at lunch time you allow 20 minutes  scrolling for news or entertainment. 

-       Set some clear boundaries for yourself and others in your home.  An example of this might be no cell phones at the dinner table, or when you take a family outing.  No cell phones in the evening until after there has been some time to connect and hear about your partners / children’s day.

-       Enlist your partner or spouse’s help. Let them know what your goals are around cell phone usage and being more present.  Let them know you want to create closer bonds and meaningful connections and everyone being on their cell constantly prevents that.


Lastly, practice mindful techniques.  There are many grounding tools and techniques, as well as apps for meditations.  Bring in tools that can help you reconnect with yourself, your partner and your kiddos and teens. 


Technology should enhance our lives. Not control them.  Making meaningful connections through taking time and being present is a great first step. You might be surprised at how many areas of your life and relationships improve!



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