Family Time: How To Unplug & Engage

When I make an attempt to spend uninterrupted time with my family, I feel as if I am fighting constant distractions and interruptions. The bling, hum or alarm from a text or social media app is certainly distracting; but even if I am in a location that’s quiet and with no cell reception, I find myself battling my overactive brain, which never seems to shut down.


The bottom line is that I need to stop interrupting myself before I can spend uninterrupted time with my family.


After getting myself “unplugged,” the next challenge is getting the rest of the family to unplug. Our kids are pretty good about unplugging when we have calendared family time, including doing a pretty good job of respecting the family boundary of no electronics at the dinner table.

I want our family times to be different. Of course there are times when it’s okay to play or socialize on your phone I just don’t want my kids to isolate themselves every time they get in the car or we sit down together as a family. The same is true for Mary and me. If we want to connect with our kids while in the car, we can’t be on our phones talking to others. We need to simply unplug and be present so we can relationally connect with our kids.

I am not suggesting your family should completely unplug themselves in order to have uninterrupted time together. What I am saying is everyone in your family 9and mine) need to be on the same "channel" together.

The point is that you spend uninterrupted time together—“together” being the operative word. One of the things we like to do as a family is watch a TV series together. Every Tuesday night we sit down together, eat some popcorn (although I am partial to Mary’s cookies), and watch the show. For our family, in that hour, there are no interruptions. The TV is not an interruption for us. In this case, it’s what brings us together. We talk, make comments and sometimes rewind the program to watch something we missed. We are connecting each other, with no phones in the room and nothing to distract us or or interrupt us.

If you want to spend some uninterrupted time together, then you need to make sure that each person in your family, parents and kids, is disconnected from whatever media they use. Technology doesn’t have to interfere with your family’s uninterrupted time. In fact, technology can enhance it. But each family member should not be connected to his or her own channel. Distraction defeats the purpose.

If you are having a family TV night but your kids want to text, play a game, read a book, or post something on a social media site that’s not relevant to what you are doing together, have them turn it off. They need to plug in to the rest of the family. They will have plenty of time to do something else at a different time. Right now is family time.

Good - Better - Best

I think there are three general options when it comes to spending uninterrupted time together. Good options, better options and best options. If you can’t do best, try better; and if better doesn’t work, go with good. Actually, I would prefer 20 “Good” over 3 “Best” any day. Frequency is important. Here are three examples.

Our family’s spending every Tuesday night watching a TV show together is a good option for us. I have ideas of what is better and what is best; but on Tuesday night at 8:00 P.M.––after homework, dinner and any practices are over––watching a television show is a good option for us.

A better option may be to play a game together where we can sit and talk with some interaction. This option take a little more time and investment and we might agree this is a better option than watching a TV show together but needs a little more planning and time.

The best option would be to go for a walk on the beach or a hike together. However, planning a trip or a hike takes more time and on Tuesday at 8:00, we simply don ’t have it. That’s why I suggest the good option of watching a TV show together. Plan your hike next weekend and don't beat yourself up. That's the last thing we need to do as parents.

Think about your options and discuss them with your spouse and then with your family. Determine what would be a good option, what would be a better option and what would be the best option. Then decide which will work for your family to keep you connected to each other.

What night of the week are you going to set aside for a one hour family time?

Photo Credit: mage ID: 117065173 © Callahan