Protecting children from life's distractions

By Kimberly Giles

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 17 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

Times have changed.

Kids today are exposed to distractions we could not have imagined. They are influenced by an avalanche of media and information that threatens to swallow them up. Despite our best efforts to protect them, many are getting lost.

They are becoming disconnected from us and life.

We are losing them to the world of alternative reality.

We are losing them to fantasy.

Many spend hours a day playing video games, where they are having adventures, making friends and accomplishing things in a world that doesn’t really exist. Others spend hours a day watching television or movies. Kids who spend too much time here are not investing in making real friends or accomplishing real things. They are literally missing their life.

Still others spend hours a day reading the latest teenage romance books. One girl told me she had read the entire series of vampire romance books 32 times. She was literally living in the books. I wonder what other experiences she is missing out on.

Don't get me wrong, I am not discouraging reading. Reading is a great hobby for children and I strongly encourage it.

It is only a problem if they are spending all their time reading, watching TV or playing video games, instead of doing other important things like building relationships, developing talents and using their creativity or accomplishing goals.

When children spend too much time in fantasy, they eventually struggle with their identity and self worth. They may not know who they are anymore. They develop low self esteem, which triggers an increased desire to be someone else or be somewhere else.

This is an alarming and vicious cycle.

We, as parents, have to be more on our game than ever before. We have to be smarter and more involved in our children’s lives and activities. We can’t just shoot from the hip. We must develop a parenting plan ahead of time.

Here are some principles that will help you raise confident healthy kids.

1. Be proactive and create experiences for growth and accomplishment.

Plan some projects or activities for your family to participate in together. Make some goals, do a service project, plan a trip, make some money together, take up a hobby or a sport. Sit down as a family and decide on some things you want to accomplish. Shoot high. You will be amazed at what you can do.

Two years ago my children decided to take Christmas to four orphanages in Mexico. My children were kept busy for months raising money, wrapping presents and planning their trip. It was an experience they will never forget.

2. Help children figure out who they are

Twice a year (before school starts and in January) I sit down with my children and ask them to brainstorm about what kind of person they want to be this year.

What kind of a student, sister, brother, daughter, son or friend do they want to be?

What do they want to accomplish this year? Who do they want to be?

I encourage them to figure it out now.

I ask them to write these ideas on a card in this format:

"I am a caring friend who is always there for my friends when they need me.”

“I am a loving daughter that always helps my parents.”

"I will earn the money to buy a new bike this year."

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