Updated: Sep 12, 2019
I look into his big brown eyes and feel a flush of embarrassment, I have absolutely no idea what he just said. He is obviously looking for an answer, but I have no clue how to respond. There is that all consuming feeling of guilt again. My gaze drifts back to my phone for comfort, even though I know it will not help and it certainly does not have the answer my little boy is searching for. It never does.
I am here again, ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’ (OK, this is not a real syndrome, do not google it, but it is the closest name I could think of to call it!). ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’ is when there are so many distractions in my life that I am never fully present in the moment. According to Udemy's survey, nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70 percent) admit they feel distracted when they're on the job and I do not think this is mutually exclusive to the paid workplace!!! You know there is a benefit to everything we choose to do, therefore there is a reason we choose ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’. So do we choose to be distracted at home because it is easier or more fun than dealing with the reality in our homes?
I have to say, I want to blame electronics! It would be so easy to say it is Snapchat, Fortnight, Facebook, Instagram or VSCO’s fault for taking over my family’s time, but that would simply not be true. Although these are distractions, it is very clear that it is our choice to participate, and honestly, that is the concern. So if we are going to actively take control of our ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’, it must start with our choices, simple decisions and principles that we can instill in our homes right now that will eventually become habits to become more present in our own lives and the people we love, to #BEPRESENT.
Bedrooms: Bedrooms should be places to unwind from the world, find peace, relax and sleep! I truly believe that we should keep bedrooms free from electronics for us and our children. Kids will spend less time in their rooms, be more interactive, #bepresent, sleep better and we may end up learning more about our children's lives if they have to use their electronics in family spaces
Eye Contact & Engagement: There is nothing more important when someone is speaking to us, then looking into their eyes. And when they share something, we can show we are listening and #bepresent by asking a follow-up question. Eye contact and engagement shows our family members that we are truly listening and that they are our priority.
Place: It would be helpful to designate a physical place to put our phones within the home so we can #bepresent. Initiate a designated cell phone spot, where everyone makes a habit of placing their cell phones when they are home, preferably where there are charge cords. It does not mean we can not go check it whenever we would like, but it would hopefully break a habit of turning our attention to our phones instead of our loved ones in front of us.
Reach Out: Sometimes as parents, we must make the first step to reach out and get involved in our children’s world. We may have to be the first one to take steps to #bepresent by actively getting involved in something that another family member loves to do (even if it has to do with electronics). Taking time to learn and play fortnight along with my son will open up lots of #bepresent moments and if their favorite way to communicate is Snapchat, we should have our child set up a Snapchat account and start communicating in their language. We must reach out on their terms, not just our own.
Electronic Free Times: Having electronic-free time for the whole family should be a norm in households, especially during meal times and in the car. Children should know that there are specific times of the day when a family conversation is a priority. I believe it should be a common courtesy to #bepresent, put down electronics and socialize with your friends and family. Choosing a day to be electronic free is also a great idea for all the family members.
Stop: What do you do when someone walks through your doors? How we greet them will let them know if we appreciate that they are there! This means we must stop what you are doing, #bepresent and welcome anyone who walks through the door with an appropriate greeting. Honor your family and guests with your most valuable asset, your time, attention, and love.
Environment: Our environment is sometimes worth changing to #bepresent. Families tend to unintentionally fall into patterns in the home and sometimes we need to change our environment to create memories and #bepresent in each other’s lives. Hiking, movies, camping, vacations, ropes courses, beach, amusement parks, picnics, museums and more. It does not have to be expensive to #bepresent.
Never Get Upset: Ok, I admit, this is easier said than done! Sometimes when we get excited to start initiating new habits like #bepresent into our homes and others don’t reciprocate or appreciate them right away, we tend to get upset. Nagging and getting angry will NOT help others choose to be present with you. Be an example and soon your family will see a difference and hopefully follow suit. If you approach your family nicely, express how valuable they are, that you need thier help and that you are trying to be more present, it will help them participate and #bepresent with a happy heart.
Teach: As parents, we must #bepresent through modeling these principles ourselves, not just through our words. If we have a problem with ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’, we must confess and ask our family members to come alongside us to help us #bepresent. I have given my family members permission, when I am distracted, to call me out nicely. I guess I get a ‘Brain Elsewhere Syndrome’ look on my face and I say a certain programed response to their questions, and my kids know I am not truly paying attention. We must always come alongside each other as family to help each other #bepresent.
By Jennifer Ann Chapman
President Of Mastering Motherhood