As a Counselor in Philadelphia, I see so many couples, individuals, and families who are struggling with a sense of disconnection. At a time when our cell phones allow us to be tethered to the workplace and the larger world many of us are discovering how challenging it can be to focus on the people in the room with us. Paying attention and being present with loved ones has become increasingly difficult. My counseling clients report hiding in rest rooms to check their Facebook newsfeeds, work email, online groups, or to text in the same way an alcoholic might cover up their drinking. We recognize it’s wrong to do so, which is why we are hiding it, yet the compulsion to “check” is so strong that we allow it to interfere with our real lives in ways that weren’t possible a few short years ago.
In conducting couples counseling, I see partners and spouses feeling the tension when they believe loved ones are prioritizing interactions with their online world vs. the relationships in the here and now. As Digital Natives, children are being raised with this technology yet have a unique ability to discern when adults are not paying attention to them especially when they notice parents and care givers being distracted by these devices.
What can we do to maintain a healthier work-life-family balance and be more effective in our roles as spouses, partners, and parents? We all enjoy the technology and understand that it can pave a way for us to connect with others too. I believe that we need to establish rituals for “turning off” the laptops, pads, and smart phones. Keeping it on your person is futile.
As a family therapist, I recommend you unplug by employing a “transition ritual”. An example is while walking in the door you place your phone in a bowl or basket for a set period of time, perhaps two hrs or even until the next morning. Or while watching your child’s game you commit to locking the phone in your glove compartment so you can really “be there”. Don’t be surprised if it’s more difficult than you expect it to be to accomplish this simple change. Leave room for the surprise and wonder and contentment with being “in relationships”. Try it for a week. Engage. Notice what happens.
Author: Deborah Owens
Originally published by Online Therapy Institute, Inc. July 29, 2012 for the Online Therapy Institute Blog