As parents, I think most of us are well aware of the importance of rest in our lives. As we know from experience, a good night’s sleep can do wonders for us both physically and emotionally. Sleep provides the rest that our bodies need in order to rejuvenate, regulate, repair, and grow. For children, this is particularly important, as a lack of sleep can affect their growth hormone levels, their metabolism, their ability to concentrate, and their motor skills. These issues, in turn, can affect mood, behavior, school performance, interactions with family and friends, eating habits, and so on. Thus, the importance of sleep is undisputed.
What about psychological rest?
Psychological rest is much less talked about, but becoming more relevant each day as adults and children alike are inundated with the rapid advances that technology brings.
Enter social media and its incredibly addictive nature. We see both children and adults glued to their phones and screens. Many children in our society have their phones with them 24/7. Their brains and bodies are on high alert for the next text, ‘like’, or comment. This is simply not a place of rest for them, and they need this rest in order to help them emerge as separate beings, adapt to life’s challenges, and mature. On top of not getting the psychological rest they need, these kids are texting well into the night and compromising their sleep needs dramatically.
So what is it that is so attractive to our youth about social media and communication via their smartphones? Quite simply, these kids are seeking connection, which happens to be with their peers. This connection, however, is not a deep and fulfilling connection that helps facilitate their growth. It is a connection that is often shallow, distracting, and often very wounding.
Making Room for Psychological Rest
- Work on Relationship. To make room for rest, we have to start with the importance of the relationship we have with our children. A strong and loving and connected relationship with our child will help them grow, and help shield them from the wounding world of their peers and social media. One-on-one time, dedicated family time, regular sit-down meals, and play (indoors and outdoors), all help to facilitate this important relationship. If they are feeling ‘hungry’ for connection at home, then they will seek it elsewhere. Show your child warmth and delight in being in their presence.
- Take a Look in the Mirror. If we cannot control our cellphone use, how can we expect our children to follow suit. Lead by example. A recent article in the Globe and Mail Newspaper, Being Left Out of Group Chats Hurts as Much as Physical Exclusion, discusses this new normal. The saddest part of this article for me is that it was written by an adult, in reference to his own experience with group chats and social media.
- Create and Enforce Limits. I think this is often the hardest part for parents, but this is critically important. Do your best to create cellphone-free pockets of time each day. As well, create limits around cellphone use at mealtimes and family outings. Lastly, make sure cellphones come out of bedrooms at the end of the day, and don’t disappear behind closed doors during the day.
- Don’t Forget the Village. In this day of shallow connections, it’s important feel loved and supported outside of their immediate family also. Thus, it’s important to foster good relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, etc. Now the saying, ‘it takes a village’ is more important than ever before.
- Pay Attention. Be on the alert for any emotional or behaviorial changes in your child. Sometimes these can be manifestations of something more sinister going on at school or in their social media world. If you focus on fostering a solid and caring relationship with your child, then they are more likely to come to you with problems they are experiencing outside of home.
In summary, it’s important to make sure that we are mindfully creating room and time for both psychological and physical rest. Do your own ‘rest’ inventory, and see where you net out. If it seems like you and/or your kids might be short, it might be time to make some changes!
Jennifer Pearson– Intern