I am excited to bring you a review of the book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau. To be completely honest, I did not read the entire book. Instead, I skimmed some chapters (bullet points throughout the book make that easy to do) and read others that stood out to me.
Nurturing the Soul of Your Family isn’t a necessarily a “how to” book. It’s more of a guidebook that helps you look at yourself and who you want to be with and for your family. It stresses that your family and the obligations that go with them are not burdens as we sometimes feel, but that they are gifts. When we take care of ourselves, we can appreciate our gifts. This book is a motivation and inspiration to slow down and find peace in the often chaotic family life.
There was one chapter in Nurturing the Soul of Your Family that resonated with me (and that makes a good fit for this blog too). It was “People First, Things Second: The Digital Divide,” a chapter that talks about unplugging from the digital world.
“People First, Things Second: The Digital Divide” starts with a short “family media use survey” which asks questions such as what electronic devices does your family use and who uses them, and is your digital use a source of enjoyment for your family or does it get in the way? The chapter then goes into some interesting statistics such as,
“The amount of time families spend together each week, on average, is less than five hours; people spend more time with computers than they do with their partners or children.”
Next, the chapter talks about the emotional toll of being constantly plugged in. Boy this this section hit me!
“The more time [my sons] spent plugged in…the grumpier, more distant, and more defiant they were…”
That’s me!! Me, my husband, and my daughters all know when I’ve been blogging too much. I start to get grumpy. Turn off the computer and do something with the girls (so I can blog about it when my grumpies leave).
After some confessions about people’s digital use and how it affected their family, Renée talks about the “gifts of being unplugged.”
“I noticed a range of effect from being unplugged from technology for an extended period of time:…I was more present and less reactive in my relationships; I was a better parent, boss, partner, friend, and sister.”
Next, Renée give you some practical, “baby step” advice for becoming less plugged in:
- If you watch TV every night, try giving it up for one night a week. Then progressively add more TV-free nights each week (until you reach three or four), and instead enjoy music, reading, time outdoors, or playing games on those evenings.
- If your habit is to often or always have the TV on as background noise, replace this with a classical music station. (My family finds this to be really calming in the morning and at dinnertime.)
- Some families allow their kids to have screen time only on the weekends — establish a total number of hours (say, two to five) that your kids can spend however they like from Friday to Sunday.
- Ditch the cable and only use the TV for watching family-friendly movies, either through a subscription service or by checking DVDs out of the library. Then, make a regular occasion of “family movie night” — reserve one night of the week for watching a movie you can all talk about afterward.
- Allow for one hour of educationally oriented screen time a day, and schedule this time for when Mom and Dad need it the most, such as while cooking dinner, replying to emails, and so on.
- Maintain a land line and answering machine at home. This way you can screen phone calls without interrupting precious family time.
- Insist that all cell phones and electronics be turned off during meals and whenever the family is enjoying time together.
- For the parents: abstain from getting online before work in the morning or after work in the evenings. These are natural family-gathering and transition times each day, so make your priority being present for your kids and for each other as a couple. Talk, connect, and share the day’s events.
- Consider making electronics off-limits during everyday car rides around town. Let your child sit quietly and “get bored” looking out the window, or use travel time as an ideal moment for talking about school, friends, and what’s going on in your child’s life.
- Avoid temptation by not getting a smart phone. These gadgets are a slippery slope, and how much do you really need all that they do? Instead, get a regular, basic cell phone with texting (you’d be surprised how many are choosing this!).
- Move the TV from the family room, or the center of your house, to an upstairs guest room. It’s interesting to see how viewing habits change, and usually lessen, when the TV is in an out-of-the-way spot.
- Make one weekend day entirely, 100 percent unplugged, with no media and no phone calls at all until a certain hour in the evening. Reserve this day for 100 percent family time, and make it fun: go hiking or to museums, make fancy all-day meals, visit friends or relatives, or go swimming. Initially, long stretches of unstructured time may seem hard to fill, but propose this as an experiment and give your family’s collective creativity a chance. Your older kids might continue to complain, but I bet they will secretly like it!
Life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
Excerpted from the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com