Leisure Features

Parent Trap: The Busyness Myth

As the holiday season approaches, it’s the perfect time to set intentions about how you want it to look and feel. Have your family discuss these questions: How busy and hectic do you want these next two months to be? How do you want to prioritize your time? Most significantly, what’s really important? You do not want to look back on Jan. 1 and wonder where the time went. And you don’t want to spend the next months flying by the seat of your pants and not enjoying the moments. So, who’s in charge of whether your family is rushing and stressing this holiday season? You!

The culture has conditioned us to accept that our lives should be busy, filled with work and activities and enrichment opportunities for kids. We’ve normalized traveling every weekend to out-of-town youth sports tournaments, taking our jobs home every night and giving up vacations to catch up on work. We have bought the narrative that more and faster is better. Today, we blame a new culprit, our phones and social media, as if they were in charge of us.

Much of the busyness we complain about is partially to blame on the amount of time we frivolously waste scrolling and checking messages. Research shows we check our phones on average about 150 times a day. Over a 10-year period, the average smartphone user burns through about 14,000 hours of screen time—that’s one and a half years. The recent documentary The Social Dilemma lays out how the companies that sell us phones, video games and social media platforms have purposefully made these devices addicting in order to hijack our attention. The result? Information overload, overstimulation, rising anxiety and a perceived lack of control over our lives.

It is imperative that we consciously decide to not buy into this busyness myth. Sit down as a family and make agreements about how you want to spend your time over the holiday season. Decide what your family values most and make that your guide whenever you have to make choices about how you spend your time. Schedule in all of the activities you want to experience first before you jam up your schedule with less important endeavors. Make family agreements about times everyone puts their devices away so that you can all be fully present. This might include mealtimes, car rides, playing outside or vacations.

I teach girls at my retreats and camps to savor the moments. Whenever we are feeling happy, close or secure, we stop and really take in the experience instead of rushing off to the next thing. I then have the girls recall another time when they felt similarly and focus on that feeling again. This process only takes a moment, but it allows memories to be tethered better for future use. And you more fully enjoy the present moment.

Set intentions for your holidays now to prevent overscheduling and undue busyness.

Tim Jordan, M.D., is a behavioral pediatrician who works with girls in grade school through college. Check out his new online course, Parenting girls: The challenges girls face today with their feelings and friends and what they need, at drtimjordan.com.

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