The importance of family communication

A few weeks ago I was in a restaurant in a hotel at Disney World and was seated, with my wife, at a table with another family of five whom we had never met before. It was a Japanese restaurant and the chef was cooking at our table and entertaining as he cooked. During the hour or so that we sat there every member of this family were on their Blackberries. They were not talking to each other or interacting with the chef who was trying his best to engage the kids.

This was not an isolated event. We started to watch other families in various venues and saw the same thing repeated over and over. This is a sad and unhealthy change in our culture. People are more and more isolated. They are more interested in talking to people who are not physically present than they are with those they are with.

And it doesn’t stop there. They may be tuned out with ear buds listening to their IPods or totally engrossed in playing a portable video game. Don’t get me wrong—I love technology, I have an IPhone and use computers extensively, but there is a time and a place. There are times when it is more appropriate to put them away and interact with the people you are with.

I can’t tell you how many parents I see in my practice who tell me about their teenage children who stay in their rooms with the doors shut and spend all their time at home on social networking sites or playing video games. Some do this even when they are finished school and should be looking for a job. They seem unconcerned about their future and are making no efforts to develop a career, get an education or develop a social life.

Less and less do I hear of families doing something as simple as having meals together while telling each other about their experiences of the day. When there is no communication, the very fabric of family life is gone and one wonders what the point of even having a family is. When problems develop with poor school performance, drug abuse or oppositional behaviour, there is nothing that a parent can do without a relationship. If the child is not interested in your opinion or approval you don’t have much to work with.

The seeds of these problems that often occur in adolescence are sowed in the family environment during their earlier years. It is the communication and relationships that are established in these younger years that provide a basis for having some influence when they are developing their independence.

It is very important to get to know your children. Take the time to listen to them and find out what they are doing. Don’t allow complete isolation in the home, We all need our private time but they should not be watching TV, playing video games or social networking to the exclusion of everything else. It is probably not a good idea for kids to have everything they need in their rooms so that they never need to come out and join the family.

 

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