In a big scary world “Love Island” seems to have captured the (desperate need to be shallow and frivolous) mood of the nation. In order to avoid any more talk on Brexit and Theresa May you either need to leave the country or watch “Love Island”. This is my latest tactic for engaging my children. Which has never been an easy task. According to new research British parents only spend 44 minutes a day talking to their children and so despite spending more than eight hours a day together, families chat for less than 10 per cent of that time. This particular research covers children aged between 4 and 16 – well let me tell you from experience, this amount of time is only going to get worse as they get older. I think 44 minutes a day is GREAT. That seems quite a lot to me and I’m sure there are also couples out there who talk for less time than that if they are both working.
When they get to be 16+ (and they’re boys) you try all sorts of conversation starters that generally go like this:-
Me: How was your day?
Me: What did you eat for lunch (good boy question)
Them: I can’t remember
Me: Did you learn anything interesting today?
Me: Anything interesting happen with your friends?
Them: No, why?
Then they start to get suspicious and slink off to check their phones. According to new statistics 37% of British 15 years olds are “extreme” internet users, meaning they spend more than SIX HOURS a day online over a typical weekend. During the week 24% are online outside school time for SIX HOURS A DAY. These figures are far higher than in other “developed” (beginning to wonder whether we can continue to use this term) nations and surely a significant reason as to why they no longer want to talk to their parents.
Admittedly, teenagers have probably never really wanted to talk to parents, so their online world is just a different way of climbing out of the window and going to have a smoke with their mates on the green, BUT for the younger kids I think it would help to put some serious boundaries in for mobile phone use when at home so that they don’t end up becoming extreme users.
The family meal is still significant and definitely the time all my children open up (no mobile phones allowed). Once they’re teenagers and if you’re a single parent, it’s great – because they all gang up on you and start taking the piss. But oh well, at least they’re talking (and laughing).
Another good trick is to make sure you can drive them to school/college. That way they are trapped and have to talk to you – unless they put on grime rap instead and nearly cause you a heart attack with the lyrics and the volume.
Reading to them at night is also a good time to chat when they’re young, but it would be weird to do that for a teenager. I did this for years only to have produced three children who don’t read. Yesterday I tried to scrabble around to find some books for my 17 year old to take on the holiday he’s gone on with another friend’s family – who had emailed to say “E reads LOADS on holiday, so do make sure he has lots of books with him”. Shit.
I found a selection ranging from “Now We Are Six” and Winnie the Pooh as he hadn’t read that (very funny mum), to “The Diary of Anne Frank” (“read that”.. but no he hasn’t) to “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (seen the film mum so no need to read the book) and in a desperate attempt to see if he’d at least choose something “Fifty Shades Of Grey” (err no?) – which was a relief because I wouldn’t have let him take it anyway – can you imagine the other parent on the holiday? So there we are, he’s gone with no books as he’d rather go to the gym, apparently.
BUT the best solution at this moment in time is to watch “Love Island” with them – it’s all they are talking about so you might as well bite the bullet and jump in. That way you know all the names of their new best friends and can agree on things like “doesn’t she play with her hair a lot” and “how interesting that they are using sporting analogies to discuss women” and so on….it’s innane drivel although my children argue it’s an interesting social experiment and coming right on the back of endless Brexit conversations, it is the perfect summer foil.