Ep 20 – Hidden Pattern Preventing Stepparenting Connections

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Hello stepparents! As I reflect on the past year and consider my goals, I can’t help noticing how much I rely on tech day-to-day. It’s obvious that we live in a digital world that seems to be getting more digital and automated by the second.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the advancements and feel so grateful to live in this moment-in-time and its unlimited access to information at my fingertips.

But I find myself burning out faster and more often. And nothing compares to the feeling of just being near a loved one. Even if we’re not saying a word.

Lots of us are considering what is missing or could be better this year and creating new habits and goals. Today I’m doing a deep dive on habits around connection and technology.

How Is Technology Impacting Your Blended Family?

We’ve all heard about zoom and screen fatigue. And most likely have experienced it. Especially, during the pandemic. I have to admit – it feels downright strange to see how pervasive technology has become in our day-to-day landscape.

Especially because I remember a time – not too long ago – when not only was your cellphone not smart, but just having one was a novelty. And today, it sometimes feels less common to see people not on a device.

Many children who’ve never known a world without smart technology, feel uncomfortable managing in-person conversations and prefer texting or messaging via social media apps.

However, while celebrating your friends’ wins you’re sometimes fated to fall into the comparison trap. Which leaves you feeling empty and low. Not to mention the nagging temptation, and dare I say addiction, to the distraction and avoidance technology provides.

Honestly, I’m guilty of it too. In spite of knowing full well the benefits of limiting technology use and the drawbacks of not doing so, I find myself spending more time than I’d like on it throughout my day.  

I see families out to dinner and each person is on their own device not even looking at each other, let alone talking to each other. This breaks my heart. But more importantly, it makes it so much harder to establish a connection, never mind build trust for lasting meaningful bonds.

Why Is It Hard For Stepparents To Break Away From Electronics?

The reason limiting access to tech is hard is that it’s become too easy to use it. And too costly not to. Technology is too accessible and necessary to do without.

It’s necessary for work to reach prospects and have meetings. There are indispensable tools and programs that take a fraction of the time to do work that used to take hours if not days.

Not to mention to be available for your stepchild, staying in communication with the parents about scheduling updates, pickups and drop offs of kids and managing the many tasks, asks, and musts of day-to-day demands.

Through accepting the necessity of technology, you’ve become desensitized to it.

As a human you crave and need consistent mental breaks. And again, it’s too easy and tempting to take them in the form of checking an email, reading a post, browsing a store’s website, playing a game … you get the idea.

Of course, you convince yourself “It will be quick.” “Just a few minutes” and the next thing you know you’re caught in the tech time-suck wormhole. Has this ever happened to you? I know it’s happened to me a few times.

How To Communicate With Your Stepchild About Their Technology Usage

If you find yourself talking to your stepchild about their extensive usage of technology, remember – depending on their age, they basically don’t know life without the prevalence of smart technology. 

And as I’ve shared in episode 17, when your stepchild gets even a hint of feeling judged, attacked, scolded, shamed or guilted, they go into a fear state and shut down becoming unreachable. Find the show notes for that episode at synergisticstepparenting.com/17.

5 Approaches To Try With Your Blended Family To Curb Technology Usage

Doing difficult things on your own can be hard and jeopardizes follow through. So implementing changes, even on a trial basis, as a family will yield better results. This will provide accountability and give you a shared experience which will strengthen relationships among you.

Because families that grow together, bond together.  

So here are some approaches to try …

1. Explore

How do they feel when they’re reaching for technology?
What do they notice when they’re on it?
How are they interacting with it?
What comes up in terms of thoughts and feelings afterwards?

It may take some time to be able to identify some of these answers. That’s fine. Just stick with it and it will become easier.

2. Track Usage

Track your usage for a week. Write down what activities you were using technology for and how long those activities took. Try to be as accurate as you can writing the start times and end times. And creating a summary by category for each day.

At the end of the day review your data. Reflect on how you feel about it and whether you spent your time the way you wanted to.

3. Implement downtime

Discuss with your family having downtime from technology during a family meeting. Discuss what that would look like …

How long would it be?
What time would it start?
What time would it end?

You could start at a smaller increment and then grow the increment. For example, starting with 1 hour and increase it over time up to 3 hours.

What would you do during that time? For example, it could be during a meal – ideally in the evening around dinner time coupled with another activity before bed is always a nice transition and likely to improve your sleep.

The key is to be consistent about it. Take time to reflect on what you noticed after the break from technology. Write down your few thoughts in a journal to have for reference. And take a few moments to discuss as a family …

What surprised you?
Which aspects didn’t you like?
What did you like?

4. Do a Challenge

Limit your phone use for a weekend, or better yet a week.

Take time to jot down your thoughts in a journal throughout your experience. And reflect at the end on what happened, what you noticed and how you felt.

5. Do Alternative Activities

Especially ones that are not conducive to using a phone. Like go zip-lining, ice skating, roller skating, play a sport as a family or go swimming. Having fun will help you bond together, create good memories and keep your body and mind off the tech.

Please drop me a line at maria@nullsynergisticstepparenting.com and share your stories about your favorite ways to bond and spend time with your family! I’d love to hear about it and share with the audience of this show.

Until next time, be well!

Related Episodes:

How to Get Out of the Stepparenting Autopilot Grind

#1 Obstacle to Achieving Your Stepparenting Goal

What’s Getting in the Way of Showing Up in Your Stepparenting

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