There was a time, as a parent, that connecting or building a relationship with your child was as simple as talking to playing with them. While those values still carry weight, the way we communicate with our children has changed thanks to modern technology. As children get older, they become more inundated in the technology surrounding them. This complicates relationship building on a surface level as it appears children have better relationships with their smartphones than they do with their own parents. Parents feel shut out, when they should feel empowered because the technology holding their children’s attention is the same technology parents can use to better connect.
Parents tend to get stuck in the disconnect between themselves and current technology. Relationship building is all about communication and shared interests, so that means parents will have to actually sit down and learn how to use Snapchat. The realization is that building communication and trust with children is no longer just an evening conversation on the couch, it’s a continuous cooperative effort using all available mediums. So what are some of the ways parents can connect and build stronger relationships with their children using technology?
- Social Gaming
Where board games used to (and still do) offer parents and children a place to bond over gaming, many children have entered the world of online gaming. Games like Minecraft and Roblox give children a place to create their own virtual worlds. There isn’t rule stating parents can’t find their way into these worlds. This offers parents and children the opportunity to build and discover together, which helps to build cooperative relationships and teamwork. There are plenty of lessons in virtual worlds, parents just have to be willing to learn them.
Even when sitting in front of the television with their families, many kids are also consuming content on their smartphones. There are tons of YouTube channels that draw the attention of children of all ages. From gameplay videos to just silly cartoons, there is content for everyone. Where parents can engage is bringing the content into the family room. Through screen sharing to a Smart TV or through a gaming system, or even plugging in an HDMI cable, parents can laugh along with their kids at all the ridiculous YouTube videos out there. Additionally, parents can try to sneak in educational videos under a turn-based system for watching videos.
- Shared Calendars
It might seem like a mundane thing, but shared calendars and schedules help keep families on the move connected in all aspects of their lives. It’s less about knowing where someone is and more about knowing where they have to be and what their day entails. Shared calendars through something like Google Docs is a great way for a family to stay in sync. Additionally, adding shared grocery lists or even Pinterest boards keeps everyone on the same page and creates an atmosphere of better communication. As kids get older, parents should be utilizing these basic services to keep the communication bonds strong and always be in touch.
- Software for Hobbies
If you give them the tools, they will build. Kids have hobbies and encouraging those hobbies in a tech heavy world can be daunting for parents. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to bring those hobbies online and spark creativity. Encourage coding with games like Kodu and Lightbot, or help your child bring their artistic imagination to life through Adobe Illustrator or even Paint.net. Most tablets have fantastic art programs either built in or for a low cost. Most artistic hobbies can be heightened with the addition of software, giving parents a way to stay involved with whatever their child chooses to create.
- STEM Toys
Just search Amazon for “STEM Toys” and there is a plethora of projects aimed at bringing parents and kids together. Sets like Snap Circuits and Vex Robotics are great collaborative science projects that focus on the technology side of things. Science reigns when you introduce STEM and the entire family can find common ground in learning how the world works. Plus, it’s STEM, so even parents might learn a thing or two. (Check out these STEM/STEAM projects for Halloween.)
No matter which way you split it, technology is changing how families connect. There is no turning back and parents are best to shed any fears of technology ruining their children when they accept the ways it can help them connect. Relationships are always stronger when both parties can meet on neutral ground. In this case, children are already embracing technology as naturally as they embrace chicken fingers and playgrounds. The opportunities for bonding are built into most technology aimed at kids; parents should try to forget how things were when they were kids and focus on their own.