“Seesaws and Screen Time” Observations From the Couch
We live in a time of disconnection. Families continue to fragment and marriages are more likely to fail than succeed. Staying close to one another demands ever increasing levels of intentionality and work. Here are some tips that I have picked up from families and couples that have found ways to overcome the cultural inertia of our times and remain connected to one another.
Observations on Marriage
- When adversity comes, err on the side of seeking help early. Most couples wait until their marital “uh-oh scale” is at a 7 or 8 before they seek outside intervention. The couples that manage to overcome the inevitable bumps and bruises of marriage address issues well before the uh-oh scale hits 5.
- Couples who stay together do not resolve conflict… they manage it. 80% of all marital conflicts cannot be “resolved”. Couples who stay together find ways of managing the intensity of their squabbles… if your heart is pumping hard during a fight, find a way to take a break and come back to it later.
- Marriage is like a seesaw. The easiest place for two people to balance a seesaw is in the middle. But when one person begins to lean back, the other will intuitively do the same in an effort to keep balance. This process of polarization leads to an increasingly precarious balancing act. Couples who stay together find ways of “leaning in” and getting back to the middle before they get too far apart.
Observations on Family
- Quality and Quantity are important when it comes to spending time together. The primary stressor for families that I see in the western suburbs is the relentless pace of life and the tendency for both parents and kids to be chronically overscheduled. The “urgent” tends to push the “important” to the back of the line. Staying connected takes a high degree of intentionality and the families that stay involved in each other’s lives do so by privileging time together over everything else.
- Turn off the television… and anything else with a screen. Screen time is not an efficient way to connect with people who are in the same room with you. Watching television together in moderation can be a wonderful activity, but at its core, it is a passive and inefficient way of connecting. In addition, much of the material on TV, in the movies, and in video games is erotic, violent, and over-stimulating. Chronic exposure to this sort of material can produce anxiety in kids, as well as a host of other relational issues.
- Holiness is important, but don’t forget about wholeness. Human beings have physical, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual needs that must be recognized and attended to. If you struggle to understand and meet your own needs in any or all of these areas, welcome to the club. We all have our issues… but as the adults in the family we have the added burden of being role models for our kids. For their sake, it is important for parents to continue striving to be better stewards and “knowers” of themselves. We can only take our children as far as we have been willing to go ourselves.
Seth Allison MA, LCPC