How to Remain Present When Parenting (Without Totally Giving Up Your Smartphone)

Texts … alerts … emails … calls … Facebook messages. It can feel like a full-time job just to keep up with what’s going on with your phone. But, obviously, none of us want to parent with our noses buried in our smartphones. I know I don’t. So this conversation with children’s clothing designer and mom of four Urbana Chappa on how to be a present parent in this age of technology really, really resonated. Check out her best tips and experience below!

How to Be a Present Parent in the Age of Technology

1. Plan individual excursions with each of your kids. Urbana recommends remembering that each child has different needs — and then giving them one-on-one tech-free time based on their individuality.

“Each of my kids have special needs that I try to acknowledge and embrace. For instance. my 9-month-old needs all the essentials — potty training, breastfeeding. whereas my 6-year-old daughter tends to get left out because she’s extremely smart and so independent. I like to surprise her with alone time for her to show what she’s working on or what she’s writing in her journal or even just talking in bed.”

2. Create tech-free traditions. Whether it’s potty training, a meal together or bedtime stories, she recommends creating simple traditions that build connection and a sense of stability and support.

“In our household we are very structured and have daily routines. Having four kids, it has to be that way otherwise it can quickly get chaotic. We eat dinner together every night, brush our teeth together and sing as we do it, say prayers and then I put them to bed,” Urbana says.

3. Make me time … so that you’re not tempted to check out with your phone. She says to nurture your interests and passions outside of parenting — and not just with bad reality TV.

“Set aside time to focus on what you enjoyed before having children,” Urbana says. “When we are emotionally exhausted, we can’t give our kids the attention we want to, making us feel guilty and creating a shame cycle. Take some guilt-free time to yourself and remember: time spent playing alone can help build children’s creativity and imagination.”

4. Be consistent. Being hands on, structured and organized is key, she says.

“We read every single night and try to play a game like Uno, Trouble or Tinsie,” Urbana says of her family. “We don’t watch any TV from Monday to Friday; they only are allowed iPads when we travel, but not during the school year. On the weekends they’re only allowed to watch two movies in bed because during the days we have them pretty busy with activities.”

5. Teach life lessons — and model the behavior you’d like to see. Being mindful and present sets the example for children to follow suit, she says.

“Recently I’ve been going out on date nights with my 7-year-old son,” Urbana says. “Teaching him to open and close doors, bring flowers from our garden, be respectful and kind. We have so much fun talking. Put down the phone and teach your children the art of conversation.”

In what ways could you be a more present parent? I’ve found that putting my phone on airplane mode really helps me to stay away from checking it all the time. —Jenn

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  1. I am so grateful for this post. I thinks the more we talk and share about ways to be tech-free and present for ourselves and our families, it will become more available to us. This topic is so important these days.