Hang Up and Talk!
By: Lynn Bacon, CPLC, CRC, CFC
Not long ago I was in the turn lane waiting for a green light near a local middle
school. I happened to glance in my rear view mirror and in the SUV behind me, there was a mom, busily
chatting on her cell phone with a young teen girl in the passenger seat with her head resting on her hand, elbow on
the window. She appeared to be incredibly bored. Our light turned green and we all drove single file down the
long stretch of road, about four miles. We hit another red light, and again, I looked in my rear view mirror.
The scene was exactly the same in the same SUV behind me. The woman continued to chat and the teen continued
to look bored. This scenario continued to play out until I reached the turn for my neighborhood -- approximately a
15 minute drive. I just kept thinking about how much conversation was being missed during those 15 minutes …. a
conversation that could have contained events of the day, what to expect on a first date, or even what was
going to be made for dinner.
Then, not long after that, I was shopping at the grocery store and saw a young
girl in the back of the cart. She was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. Mom was pushing the cart with one hand
and talking on the cell phone with the other. The girl was just sitting there, looking around. Mom was
just chatting away, obviously talking with a friend while putting vegetables and fruit in the cart, paying no
attention to her child or anyone around her for that matter. Even though her daughter wasn’t in any danger, this
was a missed opportunity for bonding and communicating. There are many teens that don’t have a clue how to shop for
food, cook food or look for values in a store. Might the mom have taken the opportunity to show this young lady the
difference between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples? Might she have taken the opportunity to show her
how to compare the prices of peanut butter?
Beyond the possibility of being rude and possibly dangerous, opportunities for
family growth are being missed by being on the phone in the presence of your kids. Opportunities with our children
are all around us when we choose to be present and focused. Even though it’s easy to let go of our kids when they
become self-sufficient, they need us more than ever as they get older. These are the years when they are learning
how to be an adult. They watch and absorb everything, even when we don’t think they are.
I have a friend that used to call me while she was waiting in the line at school
when picking up her son. The second she saw him walking towards the car, she let me know that her time was now
being directed toward him, and we hung up. This was a time that she took to talk about his day, share her day and
communicate about anything or even nothing. This was their time. Her son is now 17 and an amazing young
man that now drives himself to and from school. He openly communicates with his mom, and even though his mom might
not agree with everything, he still feels safe and confident in sharing with her.
The more our kids share with us, the easier it is to share when the topic becomes
more difficult. When we take the opportunity to discuss topics in the news regarding sex, crime, celebrity
behavior, music, religion and politics, we have the chance to talk about morals and ethics … and even opinion. Just
know that your teen won’t always take the same view, and this will be a chance to let them know that you respect
them even though you don’t agree (it’s okay not to agree). This keeps the communication lines open and will invite
him to have other risky conversations with you. Every interaction we have with our kids becomes an investment
(or a withdrawal, so to speak) in the relationship that we will have with them in 10, 20 and 30 years
from now and an ingredient in the adult that they will become. It's important to remember that we are raising men
and women, not children.
As humans, we cannot not communicate -- we
are always communicating. Every action is also a communication to them, whether you are speaking
or not. If you choose to talk on the phone or play games on your iPod in the presence of your child, then are
you communicating to them that they’re not as important as your game or the person on the other end of the
phone? Are you teaching them that being with them isn’t important to you?
When I talk with teens, the thing I hear most often is that they just wish their
parents would talk with them and spend time with them. They want their parents to be open and honest and real. Yes,
I know that’s not what they tell you, but it is what the majority of them say they want. The ones that don’t want
communication are already hiding stuff from you that communication might reveal. What opportunities have you
missed? What are the possibilities going forward?
Your children and teens will become adults, hopefully with a spouse, home, job and
children. Who is going to teach them about their importance in this world and how to function as an upstanding,
law-abiding citizen? You? Or someone else....? If you hang up, the possibilities could be