By Lisa Gsellman.

This past weekend I had 16 kids in my 1000 square foot house. Full size kids that take up a lot of space. The massive pile of shoes by the door… I wish I’d taken a photo for this post. It was impossible to not bump into each other but there was not one complaint. The tight quarters served the kids well with just what they needed; connection and memories. There have been a lot of memories at the Gsellman house and with River headed off to college next year I’m dreading how quiet it will be around here. There is a so much comfort though, knowing that my home has been one where friends have bonded over fun or homework and always food since his 6th grade year. In my years at West Sound Academy I’ve been able to observe how powerful meaningful opportunities like this are for our students. I’ve also had kids in my office that have shared feeling lonely and friendless despite our small nurturing community. It’s not easy for every kid to make friendships and the more they can escape into screens, the harder it becomes.

  I recently saw Screenagers The Next Chapter at Bainbridge Cinemas and had an opportunity to talk with the filmmaker, Delaney Ruston, before the screening. The big takeaway from the film and my conversation with Delaney was that the presence of screens is only one part of the mental health issues teens face. The greater problem is the absence of human connection. Screens are not going away any time soon. Even if you restrict the time your kids are plugged in, if you are not filling that time with face to face interaction and purpose, they won’t develop the trust they need to be resilient in relationships.
My husband saw the film with me and while we felt like we were pretty solid at home with our relationships, it was clear we could be, and should be, doing better. Mark came up with an idea that we would all sit together as a family, not over a meal, but in the living room for one hour of discussion. Once a day. This great idea was met with even greater eyerolls. What about homework? What will we even talk about? Really? Do we really have to do this every day? Yet, we discussed the pros and cons of this idea for an hour and were giggling by the end of it. We felt happier than when we started. It is so simple and yet so powerful. What are some things you could do at home for more face to face time with your kids? Would you consider hosting get togethers so that they can build memories with their classmates? You truly can counteract screen time with intentional conversation.
Screenagers, The Next Chapter is showing again on November 7th at Bainbridge Cinemas. You can still get tickets here through Raising Resilience. It is insightful, educational, and empowering! Please join me and let’s brainstorm ideas to strengthen our kids’ connections at home and with each other.