In recent months when I eat out at restaurants I’ve noticed a troubling trend. Every occupant at the table is totally disengaged and all of them have their phones, in hand, completely immersed in whatever is going on in that virtual space. PLEASE people, put the phones down.
While all of us should surrender the phone during meals I am especially bothered when I see parents and children all completely disengaged from one another. Technology has brought tremendous benefits and with that comes some terribly unfortunate byproducts. One is the virtual space that occupies entirely too much time in our short lives. While dining out yesterday I observed a family eating with their grandmother. I watched this poor lady eating her meal while every other occupant of the table completely ignored her. I learned later that it was her birthday when the restaurant staff approached the table with a dessert and a candle. She was so elated! People were showing her some attention. After this brief moment of interaction all of the occupants, with the exception of the grandmother, returned to their phones. While I am pleased that this group took the time to take their grandmother out to dinner, I was saddened by how they seemed to believe that this was all they were required to do. It would have been so nice to see them talking and communicating with each other and not occupying the entire meal on their telephones. I am sure the grandmother would have loved to hear about what her children and grandchildren had going on in their lives and not wasted over an hour of her time watching them play on their phones.
What is even more troubling about this topic is the number of complaints I get from clients about the other parent behaving in the same manner as this family I observed at dinner. In relationships that have been dissolved by divorce or separation the children have to divide their time between their parents. In some cases this time is substantially limited by restrictive time-sharing arrangements. For example, parents that only have every other weekend time-sharing may only have 48 hours, every two weeks, with their children. With this limited amount of time every few minutes spent on the telephone, disengaged from the children is terribly costly. While I am not slamming social media and the virtual environment we all enjoy, remember that interpersonal communication and interaction remains a pivotal aspect of the growth and development of both children and adults. How often have you started playing on your phone or tablet and lost track of time? Hours can pass sometimes without you even noticing it. How much did you miss during this period? What stories did your children attempt to tell you that you completely ignored? What if your children don’t even attempt to communicate with you because this pattern of being disengaged is so profound that they have already determined talking to you is a lost cause? I promise you that the Facebook and Instagram posts will be there for a while; therefore, you can view them and comment on them later. Cherish every moment you have with your children, especially if you have limited time-sharing. Don’t waste a single minute because you may never get it back. Additionally, if your children complain and mention the lack of engagement from the other parent you have a duty to address this issue with that parent. Do not use this a favorable point in your popularity rating. Have a substantive conversation with the other parent so that your children get the attention they deserve.
If you want guidance in dealing with co-parenting issues, shared parenting and time-sharing plans please contact us and let us begin working to help you today. For more information on time-sharing issues please contact the law firm of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates by calling 407-245-7700, by e-mailing info@cbswlaw.com or by visiting the website at www.cbswlaw.com.

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