The One Thing You Absolutely Must Do to Help Yourself Unplug & Connect to What Really Matters

by Rachel Macy Stafford- January 31, 2014 • 2:26 pm

Occasionally I have the opportunity to speak to various groups of children about becoming an author. When I tell my eager listeners the purpose of my book is to help people put down their phones and interact with their family, something happens. Small hands shoot straight up in the air and earnest voices beg to share their stories.

“My mom is on the phone all the time. She never gets off.”

“My dad has a problem putting down his phone.”

“My mom talks on the phone the whole time she is driving. She doesn’t even say ‘goodbye’ when I get out of the car.”

“My parents are so busy with their phones that they forget about me.”

There Is Hope

I am not immune to this world that the children speak about. In fact, my distractions almost cost me everything I hold dear. But my “Hands Free” journey has shown me that living distracted is not truly living, and it has become my mission to offer this message of hope.

The woman who once clutched her hand-held device like it was a breathing apparatus now has taken charge of her phone—an amazing tool that there is no need to do away with, as long as it’s not running your life—and uses it to serve her needs, on her terms, rather than being compelled by it. Meaning: she now rarely uses the phone in the presence of her family. The woman who once drove with her phone glued to her ear and checked email at stoplights now drives with her phone zipped in her purse. If there is hope for me, there is hope for anyone.

One Small Change = Big Impact

Grasping what really matters begins with small changes that you can make in your life today. There are several changes I have made, but the one most significant is to create at least one daily ritual where time with your child is sacred and undistracted—and repetition is key. The ritual might include: tucking them in bed at night, having dinner together, walking the dog, or enjoying morning snuggles. No matter how distracted the day becomes or has been, your child can count on having that uninterrupted connection time with you every single day. It must be part of the routine.

Once you’ve made “living presently” a habit, here are some other small changes that you could consider:

  • Protect family time – Turn off the notifications on your phone and place it out of reach so you are not tempted to “check it” whenever it dings. Also, shut down the computer until the kids go to bed so a quick check of email or Facebook doesn’t turn into hours lost.
  • Untether, completely – Go to places with no electronic distractions and leave the devices at home. Visit the local library or go on family hikes and picnics. Visit new places on the weekends, such as parks, museums, farmer’s markets, and inexpensive sporting events. No devices allowed!
  • Resist the urge – Avoid to looking at your phone when you are with your children/family in “waiting” situations like the doctor’s office, restaurants, events, or activities. This wait time is ideal “connection” time.
  • Live presently (and do it publicly) – Let it be known when you make the choice to put away distraction. For example, inform the family that you are putting your phone in the glove compartment as you drive or leaving the phone at home when you go out to take a walk. Express gratitude for simple moments in life that you would have missed if you were tied to technology.
  • Cue it up – Use visual reminders to keep yourself focused on what is important. I post love notes written by my younger daughter in various places around the house and use them as “stop signs” for my distracted ways. I also wear a Hands Free bracelet so I can look down and remember my commitment to be all there when I’m with loved ones.

At first these guidelines might seem daunting, but just start one small effort for a short increment of time. Whether you go “Hands Free” for ten minutes, two hours, or an entire Saturday, beautiful human connection, memory making, and parent-child bonding can occur every time you let go of distraction to grasp what really matters.


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