With recent events on Parliament Hill, more parents have found themselves at a loss trying to explain these terrible events to their children. It isn’t easy to discuss these situations with kids, especially younger ones, but there are a few guidelines you can use to make it easier on you and on your children.
We all want the best for our children. Every generation has wanted life to be better for the next generation. The question is whether or not we are actually making life better. If you have children, you already know the stress of expectation. We don’t want to be unrealistic but, we still want our children to strive, achieve, and succeed in life. As they become teens, this desire can become overwhelming, to us and to our teens. If you click on the picture to the left you’ll have the opportunity to read the perspectives of Professor Byron regarding the stress we are putting our teens under. This article is from the U.K. but, it has been my experience that, we can be just as expectant of our children here in Canada.
1. Don’t be a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. You only have so much attention, focus and energy to spend at any one time. If you split you attention you can’t devote the maximum amount to any one thing. Now, for simple tasks you may not notice the drop off in effectiveness but it really shows up when things get more complex (or when one of the things you are doing is interacting with other humans). You have probably felt what it’s like when you’re talking to someone who is distracted. you feel like you are not important – it’s not fun. It can be even more painful for your children when they are talking to you and you are doing something else. it can negatively affect their self-esteem and self-worth.
Instead – Practice doing only one thing at a time. I know, this is a radical idea but you will actually get each task done more quickly and with less effort. When you fully invest in only one thing (this includes thinking of what you are actually doing instead of all the other stuff you have to do, or what you’re going to do next) you start to enjoy the task more. When you are talking to others they feel far more valued AND you get to avoid misunderstandings and other things that hurt the relationship and cause stress for you both. Its also a great gift to give to your kids, spouse or friends. (By the way, this skill is becoming more rare but humans still have a need to feel valued and connected. So you will soon see that people are attracted to you which can have huge benefits in the work and dating world!)
2. Multitasking is also a great way to increase your stress load. When you do more than one thing at a time you are not really multitasking – you are actually rapidly changing focus. There is an “attention cost” every time you do this. This actually makes you work harder and spend more energy. It also increases your stress. By the end of the day you will be more tired AND more stressed than if you did only one thing at a time.
Instead – Consciously plan your time to include planning time and doing time. Then, only have one or two things on your “to-do list” at any one time (you can still keep a master list with all the other stuff you want to get done – so you don’t forget anything). This is a strategy used by very high performers (Fortune 100 CEOs etc.). If you get 5 things done in a day but have 15 things on your list for that day you can feel like a failure and stressed out by all the other things not yet completed. But if you have 1 thing on your list and get that done you can add 4 more (one at a time) and get those done – now you feel super effective! In both cases you did 5 things but the first stressed you out and drained you of energy and motivation, while in the second case your success actually fuelled your motivation and gave you more energy to keep going.
3. Multitasking is a great way to train your mind to be distracted (especially in kids). Someone once told me that “practice doesn’t make perfect – it make permanent.” When you multitask you are practicing to scatter your focus and attention. You will get really good at this the more you do it. For kids this is even more true because their brains are growing and developing based on what they see from their parents and along the typical way they live their lives. Just like kids can actually develop the ability to focus through practice, they also develop ADHD-like behaviour through “practice”. So many kids (adults) seem to be “on-call” to their technology – always stopping what they are doing at every buzz, ding, or flash. Usually, people are paid for their on-call time because employers know that there is a cost to not having time that is totally your own.
Instead – Be a master of technology – not a slave to it (and teach your kids to do the same). Set up electronic-free zones and times for yourself and your family. Don’t let you kids go to bed with their phones or other devices. Set up times to focus on your tech instead of having it bleed into all the other things you are doing in a day. Make agreements with others that (unless its an emergency) you will be responding during your tech time (ex. 5 mins at the bottom of every hour) or the next day if its after a certain time in the evening. Most things are not that dire. If they are you will know and you can make that an exception to the rule.
I have done these things myself and helped my clients do the same. The freedom, calm, and productivity that comes from NOT multitasking is real, and kind of surprising. Give it a try and don’t buy into the myth.http://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=462288