Youth Culture Window

Tis the Season for Time Together

Dynamic ImageThis holiday season, millions of teens will gather with their families around a turkey. And most of them will gorge themselves with side dishes that include healthy portions of Snapchat, Instagram, and Spotify.

But there are ways to lure your teens away from their screens this holiday season….

Thanksgiving and Christmas are officially upon us…and that means travel for millions. There have been noticeable shifts in how, why, when, and with whom families travel these days. But much of it has the same goal in mind: shared experiences with loved ones. Thanksgiving and Christmas offer millions of families the opportunity to do just that.

And it’s a noble endeavor given that parents spend less than two hours with their kids each day. (Interestingly, there are actually a couple of reasons to celebrate the 104 minutes parents give their children every day. First, it actually represents an increase from decades past…and second, it’s not the 34 minutes per day that British kids get with their parents.)

Seriously, kids have playlists that are longer than that.

Depending on which parents are asked, a variety of obstacles such as excessive working hours, long commutes, and of course, the Internet are blamed for this reality. Screen-based devices like laptops and smartphones have long been identified as culprits robbing families of precious quality time. And given that there are a host of highly-anticipated video games being released in the closing weeks of 2016, family time is likely to take another hit.

But along come the annual holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas allowing us to right some wrongs and make up for lost time. Literally. But, it will require a little planning and intentionality on behalf of parents to pull it off. Here are some easy ways to separate your kids from tech…or at least use it together this holiday season.

Got a long car ride to grandma’s house?
If you’re gonna be crammed into an SUV for a while this holiday season, at least make it fun.

  • Maybe stop and take a goofy pic at every state line you cross (no matter the weather or time of day/night).
  • Maybe each person gets to pick a song for the road trip playlist. Talk about a “mix” tape….
  • Maybe everyone makes a ten-point list of all they’re thankful for. For extra thought provoking, have everyone prioritize their lists in order of importance from greatest to least.

No matter what you choose to do, it will be better than singing The Song That Never Ends over and over again.

Got a lot of people under one roof?
If everybody’s gathering at Uncle Hank’s house, get creative.

  • Put everyone’s name in one bowl and some normal to not-so-normal activities in another bowl. Draw out one name and one activity and then snap a picture of that person doing it. Great pics include grandma hiking a football, Aunt Rachel chugging eggnog through a funnel, and Little Joey wrapping a present.
  • If you want to get a little more relational, keep the same bowl of names, but fill the other with questions that range from silly to serious. (For example, “What was the happiest moment of your life?” or “What was your favorite Christmas present ever?” or “What’s the funniest thing you remember happening at a holiday gathering?”) Draw a name and a question and see where it goes.
  • You can also assign a trustworthy teenager to use their smartphone camera to capture pics of every individual and every family group at the gathering.

Again, any of this is better than listening to Cousin Eugene snore on the couch.

If you like these ideas, or would like a lot more just like them, check out one of Jonathan McKee’s latest books entitled 52 Ways to Connect With Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid. He’s done all the heavy lifting; you just pick a plan off the page and implement it in your family.

This holiday season, homes will be decorated, tables will be set, and rooms will be filled with family members from all over the country. Make sure your teens don’t miss it because they’re staring at a screen.

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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