Back to top

Sacred Spaces With Kids

February 01, 2014

Is it ever easy to connect with our children, to get them to open up about their lives? Surprisingly, it’s what they yearn for — to be truly seen and heard in all their authentic dreams and hopes and fears. It’s what we all desire, but kids need it differently than we do. It’s how they form healthy identities, discovering who they are through the mirror that we hold up to them when we reflect back the feelings and hopes and dreams that we hear them talk about.

Are we listening? Are we taking our heads out of our devices long enough to converse with our sons and daughters? And are we insisting they take their heads out of theirs?

We must create sacred spaces, device-free zones where pings or whistles can’t interrupt, where screens don’t glow and metal can’t vibrate, stealing away everyone’s attention. “Sacred” because it’s time — when we use it well — that nourishes our children’s heart and soul in a way that online life rarely can. Real connection, through good listening and eye contact and the gift of full attention — letting the call roll into voicemail, ignoring the chime of a text — that’s what nourishes them. That’s how we step into our children’s lives, seeing the world through their eyes; that’s how they know that nothing is more important than our solid connection to them. This is what helps them thrive.

Consider establishing these sacred (device-free) spaces:

  • Car rides. Expect little from a short ride, but much if you have 15 minutes or more: it takes “warm up” time before most kids open up. Go out of your way to a mall across town just to extend the time in your sacred space. (Note: Putting away your device may not be easy for you, either.) Review The Long Car Ride.
  • Before bed. Establish, say, a half-hour before lights out for quiet conversation, a time for saying, “tell me more.” For tips on skillful listening, review The 5:1 Ratio.
  • Mealtimes, whether at home or in a restaurant. Research shows that even smartphones on the table, untouched and unused, compromise our pleasure in each other’s full attention. Let the kids be your only focus; someday they’ll be gone.

Children have always tried to hide from parents, and technology makes that easier than ever. They want and need you to listen, but first they need you to insist on sacred spaces.