The Tech Barrier

Technology can create a serious barrier between you and your child. Here’s how you can overcome this hurdle and create a loving, lasting bond with your kids.

Every parent strives to create a priceless bond with their children. However, this is easier said than done.  One of the biggest challenges that parents face is the lure of the materialistic world. Parents often find themselves giving their children toys and gadgets in order to connect with them. Many parents also allow their kids to play with gadgets just to keep them quiet. This can easily lead to a superficial relationship that is not based on authentic emotional ties.

Urban Health speaks to Clinical Psychologist at Sunway Medical Center, Jessie Foo Xiang Yi to find out what parents can do about the tech barrier that stands between them and their children.

A priceless bond

According to Foo, the first thing a parent needs to do to create an authentic bond, is to understand exactly what a bond is. “Bonding happens very instinctively and it is how the parent responds to the child’s emotional needs,” she says. This means, when the child is crying or when he or she is upset, bonding is formed depending on how well the parents’ address the situation.

Showing your child that you know what they are going through helps the child to understand that you are able to relate to the situation. This allows the child to recover from the problem. Brushing aside your child’s needs by giving generic instructions such as “don’t cry” is not the way to go. Doing this, does not acknowledge the child’s feelings and it may create a serious barrier in the bonding process.

Emotional security

Bonding is not just about creating a close relationship, it is also about helping the child develop, socially and emotionally. “It is very important to help your child’s brain to develop the ability to socialise and understand their own emotions as well as the emotions of the people around them,” stresses Foo.

When there is positive emotional and social development, Foo says your child will know how to:

  1. Socialise with the people around them.
  2. Develop intimate relationships by relating well to their parents, emotionally. This is how they learn to bond with others as they grow up.
  3. Balance and regulate their own emotions.
  4. Become more confident. This is because when your child is able to empathise during a situation of distress, it will help them feel better about themselves. This increases confidence.

“All in all, emotional bonding is considered to be the basis of emotional security,” explains Foo.


The gadget challenge

Once the importance of bonding is understood, it’s time for parents to tackle a major barrier that often stands between them and their children – technology. “I would definitely say that technology can be a big barrier when it comes to developing a strong bond with your child,” says Foo adding that she often sees children playing with a gadget during a family meal.

“When a child is playing or watching something on a gadget, he will be completely engaged with what is going on, on-screen.” Hence, the child no longer pays full attention to what is happening around him. For instance, even if you’re talking to him, he may respond but his attention is still on the screen.  

“When you give your child the opportunity to focus his attention on the gadget, you are actually taking away the opportunity for him to socialise with the people around him,” says Foo. When this happens, you are basically stopping your child from practicing and developing important social skills. “When it comes to interacting with people, we improve through practice. However, if your child is not given this opportunity, his social skills may not be on par with other children of his age.”

This is indeed worrying as the child is likely to face difficulties in developing and maintaining friendships. “Due to his lack of social skills, a child may continue to face many negative experiences. This will demotivate him further and maybe even stop him from developing friendships altogether,” warns Foo.

Creating a balance

To create a healthy balance in your child’s life and a strong bond with your child, you must first ask yourself, “What values and principles am I trying to teach my child?” “When I provide him with gadgets, am I telling him that these can replace his interactions with people?”

“Other than the basics such as food and shelter, a child needs emotional security so they can feel safe and learn to trust others,” says Foo. This is to ensure that they grow up with healthy self-esteem, feel confident enough to handle challenges and know that they can rely on trusted friends and loved ones for comfort and support. “It is important to understand and provide according to your child’s emotional needs as your child grows,” she shares. Doing this will help you create that priceless bond that every parent dreams of.

According to Foo, here are some of the common mistakes parents make in their attempt to bond with their children:

  1. Parents want results fast. Authentic bonding is a slow game. It doesn’t come with speed.
  2. Parents want to be perfect when it comes to connection and bonding. There is no perfect way to create a bond and a perfect bond does not exist.

Bonding doesn’t stop. Creating a bond is a continuous effort and parents need to ensure that they adhere to their child’s ever-changing emotional needs as they grow.

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