This year, our middle child will be taking his PSLE. Our goal is to make this a relatively fuss-free affair and not let this major exam dampen our family’s love for balance, spending time with friends and exploring the outdoors.
- Limit screen time on weekdays
Previously we allowed screen time on most days, thinking it would give our kids some breather from homework.
But we found that it sometimes increased the tension at home as they would try to rush through their homework just to get started on their screens.
This year, we are limiting screen time to weekends in anticipation of the greater workload from school in preparation for the PSLE.
Of course, if on some days we have less school work to contend with, we may enjoy the occasional game time as a family.
When I rush around to more than two to three activities per day, I get exhausted and cranky by the end of it.
- Limit enrichment classes to 3/week
My child needs more downtime than typical kids. I can relate because I’m also wired like that. When I rush around to more than two to three activities per day, I get exhausted and cranky by the end of it.
Knowing that he will already have to tackle extra lessons on some days at school, it’s just sensible for us to keep tuition or sports classes to a maximum of three.
He already is receiving some help with his two weakest subjects, so I am hoping that we will not need to pile on more.
Having fewer classes also means we need not ferry him around as much. Juggling three children, a full-time job PLUS part-time studies, I find this to be the best thing I can do for myself.
PS. We also have a Chinese tutor who comes to our home on weekends, so this means we rush around even less!
To free up my time, I’ve popped all of my social media apps into a folder on my phone labelled “distractions”. So I think twice before clicking into any of the apps.
- Identify your biggest time-wasters
Each one of us has a weak spot. For some, it could be social media; for others, it could be exploring new cafes and taking just one more food pic.
Some may struggle getting an early start to the day, and this may be linked to a penchant for checking emails or posting and commenting on social media late at night.
At this point, it is worth reminding ourselves we are loved and there is no condemnation for indulging in one or two of such behaviours.
For me, I’m working on my habit of brisk walking every evening, and to lengthen each session. To free up my time, I’ve popped all of my social media apps into a folder on my phone labelled “distractions”. So I think twice before clicking into any of the apps by asking myself, “Do I really have that half an hour to throw away today?”
It is worth teaching our young that tech, games and apps are all carefully designed to steal your attention. And the more “engaged” you are on a particular platform, the more money they make.
- Teach kids that apps are designed to steal your attention
We are living in an increasingly noisy and complicated world, and our collective attention spans are also shrinking at an incredible rate.
The net result is that instead of having the space and mental resources to think deeply about the challenges of the modern world and to engage in problem-solving, we end up feeling more anxious and less in control.
In such a context, it is worth teaching our young that tech, games and apps are all carefully designed to steal your attention. And the more “engaged” you are on a particular platform, and the more time you dish out there, the more money they make.
Only when they become aware of the problem and what it means when they give up a portion of their time, energy and mental resources, are they more open to hearing about and implementing solutions (i.e., to manage our time on tech wisely).
While you are at it, teach them to disable notifications on their leisure apps. They should decide when to check their messages or social media, not the app.
- Have intentional one-on-one time
Something I’m trying to do this year is to spend more one-on-time with each child. I find that the occasional walk to run an errand, or even just 15 minutes of chat time just before bed helps me tune into my child’s inner world, and for them to feel close enough to share deeper thoughts and concerns with me.
It could look like: When big sister is having her tuition class, bringing little brother for a snack break or to his favourite book store.
Sometimes the simple things done often give the biggest returns.
I’m not trying to promote a dystopian view of technology, nor am I saying that all apps are inherently evil or time-wasters. There are many instances of people finding productive use of their time and building meaningful relationships online. (But even then, you do hear of many who say they need to take a step back from social media once in a while to appreciate and explore other things in life.)
As with every new habit, it takes time, intentionality, and learning from mistakes, to really become disciplined at it.
But by talking it through as a family and setting some goals (and sticking it up so everyone can see it), you are well on your way to becoming a closer-knit family than ever before - one who enjoys conversations (and not just gaming) together.
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