It's a P.A. Day...Again!
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
“Oh great! Tomorrow is another P.A. day!”, I heard my kids say last Thursday. To which I responded, in a slightly different tone, “Oh great… tomorrow is ANOTHER P.A. Day”. This past Friday was yet another P.A. Day at my kids’ school and in less than two weeks from now there will be another, combined with a holiday long weekend.
Somehow I don’t recall having that many P.A. Days “back in my day” … but I digress. So, the million-dollar question - what to do with the kids on P.A. Days? On days when there is nothing else otherwise planned in our house, the kids get to treat P.A. Days like lazy holidays – sleep in, hangout in pjs, play or watch on screens at least for part of the day. Most days of the week my kids are active, involved in too many hours of sports/dance and they work hard at school, so some chill out time is ok with me.
Perhaps it is that my kids are getting older but that permission to chill out in front of a screen seems to be slowly turning into something different. When they were younger, even if they did chill out for a while on screens, they would inevitably end up playing something together - even pretend school on a P.A. Day on most occasions! This ability to transition from chill out screen time to unprompted, real life, made up fun, seemed to be fading away, at least for the older two. The four-year-old did, as the older ones used to do, get fed up with screen time and proceeded to sneak around the house pretending to be a Ninja Turtle for at least an hour.
As “Lazy P.A. Day” morning wore on and I could feel the “zoned-out-ness” (as I call it) of my older two kids setting in as they each continued to watch YouTube video after YouTube video on their respective screens – we had passed that threshold of lazy morning to something else. Now that lazy morning feel was starting to feel like little zombies sitting in my living room in front of screens not interested in doing much else, never mind listening to my calls for picking up the granola bar wrappers strewn around them and telling them to stop being short with one another.
Admittedly, I’m not always very good at setting the right example when it comes to screen time. I was on my computer that morning continually trying to send that "one last email" before getting off my screen. I was a bit zoned out myself to be honest and the one or two times that they did wander to find me, I seem to vaguely recall saying something like “not right now I need to finish this”. It was time to step in and I realized I needed to lead by example by packing in my computer work for the day and getting to those real-life tasks around the house that I was avoiding.
Getting the kids to shift gears from zoned-out screen kids to engaged real world kids was a bit a of a task. I find that my kids can be grumpy, annoyed and agitated when they have been watching something on a screen for too long. I guess I am not alone, in our recent Kidictive "The Battle of Screen Time" survey over 60% of parents reported that after screen time their children displayed the moods of distraction and annoyance, an unwillingness to listen and increased talking back. This clearly is not good, but wait, had I not just been that way with them when they asked me a question and I shooed them away engrossed in my work on my computer? That gave me more food for thought on leading by example.
I can’t recall a time where I have sent the kids outside to play and they have come in grumpy and agitated (save for typical sibling bickering). On the whole, they come in happy, more willing to listen and be helpful. As much as they say they enjoy watching their favourite “YouTuber” they don’t seem very happy when they are done, in particular when it has dragged on too long.
So, I made them put the screens away and slowly the mood in the house improved. All three went to the basement to play mini hoops and I could hear laughing, sharing, having fun together - shocking! That turned into “lets make trick shot videos” (ok still tech but creative so I’m good with that) which again induced laughing, cooperating, working together.
When that wore off, I put them to work on a family question jar for dinner time which even the 11-year-old enjoyed doing – some of the questions that they put in the jar are hilarious and will make for some fun dinners around our house.
The change in mood, once the screens went away, was striking. Our kids are growing up with these devices and technology is not going anywhere. We will continue to have chill out mornings watching YouTube videos or playing on screens.
The trick though, which Michelle and I truly believe in and which was the genesis for Kidictive, is helping kids understand the need to take themselves off of screens when the time is right, appreciate balance and to be inspired to engage in the real world around them. My lesson learned on this P.A. Day – lead by example mom!