* Five No-Phone Zones – Are Cell Phones Coming Between Us and Our Family?

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 18, 2017 –

We all know cell phones and other electronic devices are here to stay, but do they have to come between us and our family? How do we balance the use of electronic devices and time with family?

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices as it is for our children to disconnect. So I’ve broken down some areas where cell phone and other electronic use can be specifically challenging.

Let’s talk about those five zones:

1. Bedrooms – Years ago, pediatricians recommended no televisions in bedrooms, and now we also include other types of electronic devices. To encourage sleep, charging phones across the room versus the nightstand will decrease the chances of checking that phone one last time. Having children charge cell phones and other devices in their parents’ room may also cut down on late-night conversations with friends.

2. At the table – If your family eats dinner together at the table, it’s great to have a rule for everyone that this is family time and to “unplug.”  This goes for parents, too!

3. Reading a Book – It’s difficult to truly get into a book if we’re going back-and-forth from reading to checking e-mail or looking at other applications on our electronic devices.  If you want to read more books or you are trying to get some family reading time in, you might allow e-readers, but keep other screens at a distance.

5. In the car – Of course screen time in a vehicle during a long trip is helpful, but limiting the amount of time would provide an opportunity for family discussions. Some of the most unguarded conversations take place when parents are chauffeuring, so it’s worth trying to limit screen time in the vehicle.  As far as car use by parents, of course texting while driving is not recommended and in many states is against the law.  If children know you do not text and drive, they will learn this is expected practice in your family.

So what now? Make sure everyone is on the same page by developing a family electronic-use plan that works for your family.

One step in my family’s plan is no cell phone use while picking our son up from school. I saw a report recently about a school that posted signs around the building asking parents to not be on their phones when picking up their children. Children often want to tell their parents about their day or show them work they did while at school, so give them your full attention. You will be glad you did.

Hopefully focusing on these five no-phone zones can help provide more quality family time. I challenge families to put their cell phones and other electronic devices down in the five no-phone zones for one week and see how it improves family communication. You can even have a little family competition – parents versus kids – and see who can successfully stay off their electronic devices in these five zones.

Help Children Manage Time, Lower Stress

Time management

By Alissa Eastham, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 23, 2016 –

Whether your child had a leisurely summer or the past few months have been filled with activities, it is often an adjustment for students and their parents when the first day of school arrives.

Some parents may be relieved that school is back in session, others are concerned or worried. Students may feel excited or anxious about seeing friends, meeting teachers, receiving homework and starting new activities.

Although stress can be beneficial (such as when it motivates us to complete tasks), it warrants our attention most when left unchecked. We can experience stress in a variety of ways, and stress may manifest itself differently in children and teens.

Physical symptoms of stress can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, stomach ache, chest pain, muscle tension and pain, headaches, indigestion, nausea, increased sweating, weakened immune system and back and neck pain.

Emotional symptoms can include decreased motivation, increased irritability and anger, anxiety, depression or sadness, restlessness and inability to focus.

You may also notice behavioral changes as a result of stress, such as constant thoughts about stressors, eating too much or too little, social withdrawal, nail biting and drug or alcohol use.

The return of the school year can be an exciting and stressful time, and as it kicks into full gear, it can be helpful for both parents and students to manage their time in order to manage stress. The following tips can help.

Use a planner. This can be a hard copy or digital version on your phone or computer. Having a way to organize tasks and activities can help you remember what you need to get done. Most schools offer planners to students at a low cost.

Prioritize tasks. Using a planner will also help prioritize time, tasks and activities. Writing things down helps your child remember them. It also gives you and your child a list to help determine what is most important and what can be done quickest.

Break larger tasks into smaller ones. If students become overwhelmed with several assignments, it can be helpful to break down the homework into smaller, more manageable parts. This can reduce anxiety and give your child a starting point.

Limit distractions such as electronic devices. This will help your child focus on the task at hand. It is also helpful for students to have a dedicated study space where distractions are limited.

Schedule more time in between tasks.  Avoid rushing from point A to point B. By purposefully scheduling more time between tasks, you can reduce your stress when a meeting runs long or you find yourself stuck in traffic. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early.

Create boundaries. Students can be involved in too many activities, adding stress. Are they only getting involved because others expect it? Encourage them to decide what’s most important and consider cutting out unneeded tasks and activities.

Stress can be positive when it motivates students to study for tests or complete homework assignments, but we often don’t notice it until it’s caused a problem in our lives. Consider how you use your time and what can change so that your family will reap the benefits and have a less stressful school year.