Right here, right now.

Parenting today is hard. And it seems to be far more complicated than it was “back in the day.” How did we get here? What can we do about it? And how can we feel empowered to make the right decisions around screens, devices and technology?

Last week, my son’s practice location changed from down the street to the next town over…just three hours before he was supposed to be there. He’s 10 and 1 of 4 kids. It’s not easy for me to drop everything, rearrange my schedule and cart him 30 minutes away with less than 3 hours notice.

I imagine before “smartphones” made our lives easier, our lives actually were easier. We had to plan ahead and stick with our plans. Phone trees were our only way to disseminate information quickly and if someone wasn’t home, well, too bad. Today, we make changes close to 100 times a day. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but sometimes it feels like that. We also sometimes forget to tell our kids what the pickup plan is or what they’re doing after school because we can text them or their teacher or call the school from our car. If we do, we often change plans, because we can. You know what teachers tell us, most mid-day texts come from students’ parents. I’m guilty. I have the school receptionist’s personal cell phone number programmed in my phone and I’m not afraid to use it!

Our work days also never end because we’re always available via phone, email and text. My husband once let a work call go to voicemail at 10pm on a Sunday. I assumed it was an emergency and told him to call back right away. I was wrong.

We get it. Parenting through all these changes and expectations is hard. It requires us to look at our phones multiple times throughout the day lest we miss something. Probably 85% of the time I spend on my phone is coordinating my kids schedules. But there must be a better way.

Planning ahead and sticking with the plan strengthens our executive functioning skills and relieves stress associated with reconfiguring plans. This is especially true for our kids. Encouraging them to plan out their day and stick with that plan is a skill they will need to be successful in high school, college and life. It would do us all well to try it. It’s ok to say “No, I’m sticking with this plan even though something else came up.”

It would also help our family relationships if we established the simple expectation that when we’re with people in person, those people come first, and that we are unavailable to respond to calls, texts and emails. There are very few emergencies, and even fewer situations, that require our immediate attention. Unless, of course, you are a doctor, on-call. Then, by all means, pick-up the phone.

This week, this summer, whenever, try it. Make a plan for the day and see it through. The predictability will relieve everyone’s stress and everyone will be happier. Especially if we’re paying attention to the people around us and not the messages on our phones.

Our kids are watching. They’re looking to us to learn how to manage their relationships, their days and their time.

Please let us know how it goes… We are all about community and sharing our experiences. What works? What doesn’t?