May 22, 2013 - Marriage, Parenting

Are you missed?

We hope others notice when we’re not around. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we want to be noticed when we are around.

In my busy practice, the trend toward mental absenteeism is a rapidly growing concern, often the direct result of our growing dependency on distractions.

Not all distractions are worthless pursuits—many are entertaining and educational. In fact, some programs on our smart phones and iPads have become essential to our way of life.

Although awareness of relevant news events has value, are we utilizing our time on the net appropriately? The question is are we engaged with the real world or the virtual world? Is there true reality revolving around us of which we are barely aware?

Recently, when I entered a room to see a young patient, he refused to turn off his iPad program, and wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was asking him questions. His mother did nothing to help. This was not a toddler—he was twelve.

When his mom answered the questions I was asking him, he chimed in from time to time without looking up, to offer a snarky remark toward her for the purpose of correcting something she said. I told him to put down the iPad and answer my questions, but he ignored me.

I left the room with the understanding that I would come back when he turned off his iPad. I gave him ten minutes—my rooms are valuable, needed for real patients with real lives. Mom and young “snarky” left the room, and an hour later they left my office without being seen.

A work situation such as this is certainly of concern, but if this same response occurs in our homes, this is a problem. I don’t mean only with kids—how we respond to our spouse is just as critical.

When our husband or wife walks in the door after a long day, or even when they come home from the store, how we respond to them makes an important statement. The good thing is it’s up to us what that statement is going to be.

The first question is—what are we doing now? Are we likely to jump up and offer a big kiss? Or do we hold up a hand of silence until we’re finished with what is occupying our time at that moment?

If you fall into the later category, you have plenty of company. The important aspect of this is what you do now.

The determination to make a simple change in your current behavior has the potential to dramatically strengthen your marriage. In addition, it develops a bond with your children that sets the stage for the future of your family.

When my kids came home from school, my wife, Gwen, took the time to get them a snack, sit down and listen about their day. It made a difference that they will never forget. It is a wonderful memory for them, even though she is gone.

Take this step. Make your spouse and children the most important aspect of your life.

It’s the most valuable use of your time. The investment is beyond measure.