Educator and best-selling author, Rosalind Wiseman, is back for a second edition of Raising Resilient Children to help us with something we all need: advice on supporting the social, emotional, and educational needs of our children during the these constantly changing times.
The pandemic has put a big strain on families, especially homes with children. Stress and conflict during these times is inevitable. How can families help turn conflict into productive conversations? How can families manage social media use for children, which is often a source of tension? Rosalind Wiseman, the New York Times best- selling author of The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents answers these questions and shares insights on how to raise resilient children in a constantly changing environment.
In the early days of the pandemic, clashes between parents and children over screen time and social media may have been set aside as everyone adjusted to what appeared to be a temporary situation and enjoyed their newfound “family time.” However, with social distancing norms stretching beyond six months into the fall, a combination of fatigue and stresses from the new school year may lead to more blowups in the living room than we would like.
Managing the effects of social media
One constant source of conflict in most households these days is over the use of screen time and social media. Students are not just glued to screens during the school day, but are using video calls, social media and video games as a way to connect with friends after school. Parents may be concerned about the excessive use of screens, but are also resigned to the fact that the pre-pandemic rules on screens no longer apply in this environment.
Wiseman recommends separating social media use into three buckets – 1) connecting with people 2) creating of thing and 3)consumption. According to Wiseman, it is important for children to connect with friends be it through FaceTime, group chats or playing video games. Creating something using technology needs to be valued and acknowledged as well. “What we really want to be careful about is about consumption, “says Wiseman. “That consumption of things- just going through Instagram and scrolling through things, or going down the rabbit hole of YouTube- that is what we want to have our kids not do.”
According to Wiseman, it is the consumption of social media that leads to increased anxiety that comes from comparing oneself to other people and feeling like we are not measuring up.
Wiseman advises structuring the day so that there is time to maintain relationships but also get exercise, read books and have device-free family time. She also recommends creating a tech-free ritual before going to sleep.
Chances are you are aggravated by your children at least once a day and they may have told you to stop nagging them more than once. Wiseman assures us that this is standard in practically every household. But she reminds us, “what we are going through right now is a moment, it is not a lifetime.” She suggests choosing three ideas that we want to convey to the person we are frustrated with. “You just need to choose three, because your child will totally blow you off after the first three. You want to keep it short, and you don't want to repeat yourself.”
When it comes to managing sibling conflicts, Wiseman advises a strategy of giving each person two minutes to explain their side. “The rule is that nobody is going to interrupt, and nobody is going to do eye rolls or sighing or any of the annoying things that people in families do.” After the two minutes, each person can then ask a “clarifying question” – something for which you actually want an answer and not something that is dismissive of what the other person just said. After that everyone can regroup at a later date. “Things aren't going to be perfect, we just need to be moving in the right direction.”
Wiseman also stresses the importance of listening when resolving conflicts, defining it as “being prepared to be changed by what you hear.” When a child comes to you with a problem, she recommends saying something like “I want to make sure I understand what happened, but can you give me more detail so that I don't make assumptions.” Young people respond well when parents listen without judgment, she says.
Maintaining a tone that is genuine and authentic is important too. “It shows the other person that you are treating them with dignity. When that happens, people calm down and they are much more able to listen, and are much more able to stay in a relationship with you in productive ways.“
Main contributor: Shanthi Bharatwaj
Rosalind Wiseman is an educator on ethical leadership and parenting and a social media expert. If you have thoughts, questions or concerns regarding this topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wiseman will answer these questions in an upcoming podcast in early November.