5 Unique Ways Families Can UnPlug to Reconnect

In the Fall, family members seem to run in different directions — to instrument lessons, to sports practice, to PTA meetings, and evening work commitments. Our family is so tired from all of the running to events that when we do have a moment to sit, we turn on screens for entertainment and to “decompress.” But our home time spent on screens is certainly not season-specific. This past summer when I asked parents what their kids planned to do with their free time, several responded, “I booked camps and programs every week, every day because otherwise, I’ll have to battle over screen time.” The unique challenge of this generation of parents requires us to contend with screens on a daily basis with our children. And when research is emerging about the dangers of digital life contributing to feelings of separation and disconnection, it’s no wonder parents are concerned. 

Questions arise for parents on how much time children are spending on screens, the appropriateness of content children are watching, and how it may be affecting them. But there’s also an opportunity cost with screens occupying every spare moment. Parents and their children may have less time to connect and continue to build the trust that is required for dealing with life’s challenges and contributing to children’s sense of emotional well-being.

For this reason, it’s critical to consider the role media plays in our family lives. We need to discuss and decide on what our hopes and priorities for our time are as a family including time to connect with one another. And then, we need to become highly practical (how will it happen?) and intentional (when will it happen?) about scheduling or planning for it. In our increasingly busy lives, scheduling may just be the only way our meaningful connections will happen. Here are some tips for unique ways families can unplug to prioritize reconnection.

  1. Share for Hopes for Playing Together.

Yes, a family that plays together, stays together. How can you hope and dream collaboratively about what you really love to do together? Create a list with all family members contributing to ideas, big and small. Then, keep the list handy for times when you are tempted to go your separate ways and hover on a device. Be certain that there are plenty of small, easy, everyday kinds of ideas like playing a card game, doing a puzzle, or raking leaves together.

2. Learn about and Collaboratively Establish Boundaries for Entertaining Screen Time. 

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that young children only view a maximum of one hour of high quality, developmentally-appropriate content. For older children and teens, consider that they require enough sleep at night, time to complete homework, participation in extracurricular activities, alone time, family time, and free time to play with friends. Get the facts and learn together about the opportunity costs of screen time with resources like Common Sense Media. Then, discuss what your boundaries will be for family life. Distinguish between work/school screen time and entertainment screen time. Have a timer at the ready so that your child takes responsibility for tracking his own time. Consider rules like, “friends before screens,” so that when a buddy comes knocking, your child goes out to play and sets down the device. Or when you have playdates, you discover the many ways children can play together other than video gaming. Check out the new book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers” for a Family Media Agreement to complete and post in a place where all can refer to it. 

3. Create a Gratitude or Connection Routine or Ritual.

If we are to change habits we don’t like, then attaching a new practice to a daily routine can support that change. So consider when you are all together as a family regularly. Is it dinnertime each night? Or do you manage to have breakfast together? Do you all connect at bedtime? No matter the time of day, you can build in a moment for reflection on the goodness in your life while leaving behind all objects that may distract you including toys, books, work papers, phones, and other devices. Maybe at the end of dinnertime, you share one appreciation for one another or one thing that happened for which you are feeling grateful. The content watched in the media often contains messages of negativity, disaster, violence and at times, the worst of humanity. How then can we balance those messages with a daily dose of positive connections and gratitude?

4. Get Out in Nature Together (and leave devices at home).

Numerous research studies have shown the relationship between being in nature and an individual’s mental health. In fact, just walking outside and breathing fresh air can be a refreshing coping strategy to deal with our busy lives. But what if you decided to make a point of venturing into nature as a family? What if once a month or every other weekend, you left all of your devices behind and explored a metro park or drove out into the country, stopped at a farm stand or picked the fruit of the month? These outings will not only help to release tension and build resilience for the hard work and stress of the week ahead but will also serve to connect you to one another and to your surroundings.

5. Follow Creative Passions.

Though we make time for sporting events in our free time, how often do we engage in creative endeavors as a family? Whether you harbor a passion for cooking, your daughter loves to draw, or your son plays an instrument, how can you engage in those passions as a family? You don’t need to all draw when your daughter is drawing but could you take in an art exhibit to connect with her passion? Or could you go listen to a local jazz musician who plays the trumpet beautifully while your son is learning? Following family members’ creative inspirations can lead to heart and spirit riches that you cannot encounter in the normal routine of days. Deep dive into what gives each other joy and discover new parts of yourself and your loved ones.

Our digital age offers an expansive connection to our global community in ways that were not possible before the internet. Yet, if that exploration takes us away from our closest family members and friends, it can result in less time to build our connectedness as a family. It may take a bit more intentionality and focus to set down the devices and spend time together. But the rewards will be great if we do. Instead of that happy hormone reward that comes from video gaming, happy hormone rewards can come from deeply connecting and engaging in joy together. Those riches – the ones that fill up our hearts and souls – are well worth fighting for. They’re worth our prioritizing.

In Youth Connections Magazine… “Children’s Growing Identity; Cultivating Self-Awareness to Inspire Confidence”

Check out the latest feature article in Youth Connections Magazine published nationally. This one focuses on children’s developing sense of who they are, what they think, and how they feel. It helps parents understand at various ages and stages how children are growing in their self-perception and how parents can promote confidence by cultivating their self-awareness skills. It begins…

In those last sweet days of summer, Mom Margaret wanted to do something enjoyable with both kids in addition to the typical flurry of school supply shopping. But, she hesitated to propose an outing when she noticed that ten-year-old Olivia was sulking around the house seeming down. When Margaret asked her about it, she snapped, “Mom! I’m fine.” 

After giving Olivia a little time and space, Margaret approached her gently, “Seems like you’ve been worried or upset lately. Are you okay?” Despite her delicate prodding, Olivia shrugged her shoulders and innocently looked at her mom. 

“I don’t know,” she said genuinely perplexed. 

“Are you upset about your friends?” Olivia had been hanging out with neighbors all summer long, and maybe they had an argument Mom guessed. But, no, that wasn’t it. “Could it be,” asked Mom, “anticipating the school year starting and all that goes along with it?” 

Olivia was no longer quiet and launched into her many worries. Ah, jackpot. Would she like her new teacher? Would she fit into her old group of friends or could she make new ones? What if she failed the new advanced placement math class to which they had moved her? READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

Thank you ParentingMontana.org‘s Center for Health and Safety Culture and Youth Connections for sponsoring this feature series on parenting with social and emotional learning. This is one of six feature articles each focused on a different social and emotional skill along with an overview of parenting with social and emotional learning.

Premiere of the Trailer for “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” — The Book

A whole lotta love, hard work, and research went into the making of this book and its trailer. Please enjoy and share!!!

On National PTA Blog… “Element of a Confident Parent — Looking for the Good!”

Nagging Not Changing Behaviors with your Kids? Instead, Try This…

The article begins…

Though the sunshine sparkles through the yellow leaves during these beautiful Fall days, there is less light in the morning and evening. And we’ve been doing this school thing for a few months now. We’ve poured it on and now we are slowing down a bit – tired. My husband and I noticed that some of the routines that used to run smoothly are in need of an update. In particular, we’ve noticed that our son leaves his dishes behind for someone else to take care of, whether it’s breakfast or dinner. He’s picked them up, cleaned them off and placed them in the dishwasher in the past. We know he can do it. But he’s forgetting regularly. And we began to remind him but realized we had down-shifted into nagging. When reminders happen day-after-day, then a parent knows that she’s entered the hamster wheel, a vicious cycle going nowhere. So the question becomes, “How does learning take place? How is change facilitated?”

We informally – Mom, Dad and E, our nine-year-old, sat around one night after dinner and brainstormed solutions. “The taking-in-of-the-dishes seems to be challenging. It’s hard to remember when you’ve got play you are eager to get to. What could help you remember?” I said and we started thinking off all kinds of ways to help him remember with E chiming in his ideas. “I could wear one of those rubber bracelets.” Or “I could not get dessert until my dishes are returned.” We talked about the possibilities of each and how they might work. And finally, he resolved that if we say simply “Dishes.” quietly when he’s asking to leave the table, that’s all the help he needs to remember. And it’s worked exceedingly well.

In addition, my husband and I resolved to be certain and notice when he did his routines without our reminders. So often, we play the “Gotcha!” game as parents. “You forgot this.” “You left that behind.” “You made a mess here.” And because we are so busy focused on the mistakes of life, we forget ourselves to point to the good even though we all tend to forget daily tasks. “Ooops, you are going to have to wear a day-old shirt because I forgot to get the laundry done last night.” is a common refrain of my own.


If you didn’t catch the podcast featuring Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids with interviewers and PTA leaders LaWanda Toney and Helen Westmoreland entitled: “Notes from the Backpack: How to Raise Confident Kids,” check it out here!   

Thank you for your partnership over the past few weeks, National Parent Teacher Association! 

National PTA’s Podcast — “Notes from the Backpack: How to Raise Confident Kids”

What an honor and delight to join the new podcast from the National Parent Teacher Association, “Notes from the Backpack!” Hosts LaWanda Toney, Director of Strategic Communications and Helen Westmoreland, Director of Family Engagement interviewed CPCK’s Jennifer Miller with wise and stimulating questions and even asked several listeners in advance to pose parenting challenges they were facing in hopes of discovering ways to handle them that would promote parent and child confidence and emotional intelligence.

Don’t miss this conversation! Listen to the National PTA’s “Notes from the Backpack; How to Raise Confident Kids”.

For Spanish speakers, scroll to the bottom of the page for the Spanish version of the National PTA’s “Notes from the Backpack; How to Raise Confident Kids”.

Frustrations over Homework? Practice this Coping Strategy…

“Uuuwwaaaahhhh” I heard from our dining room table and recognized immediately the telltale sign of my son getting frustrated with his homework. “He hasn’t been working that long,” was my first thought. My second was, “this is gonna be a long night.” Children of all ages will experience frustration during homework time. And because we want our children to succeed, our reaction to that frustration might be “oh, come on, you can do it” and also, “dig in, don’t give up, keep going!” But when a child is truly feeling stuck, they may begin to spin their mental wheels getting nowhere. This can lead to a long night of parent-child battles as a parent moves from encouragement to insistence. “You’ve got to get this done!” And the child moves from minor aggravation to giving up. “I just can’t figure it out!

Research confirms that short breaks help a person’s brain refresh and process. Staring at the page may not produce any new thinking in your child and in fact, staying there when irritated can burn valuable fuel and decrease motivation to put in the hard work necessary to get through the learning process.

But if he walks away, gets some fresh air, or moves a bit, he might feel differently. This small change of scenery can boost thinking skills in powerful ways. He can think more clearly and become a better problem-solver when he returns. He may even gain some new ideas or solutions to his problem removed from the work setting. This functions in the same way that we experience the “shower effect.” Do you get your best ideas in the shower too? Or perhaps your most creative thoughts come when you are driving in the car with no laptop or notepad at the ready? Or maybe when you’ve laid down to go to sleep for the night, your brain starts firing off brilliant thoughts. In order to access our top thinking skills, we require a mental rest. Consider that a short brain break for your child is working with their natural thinking processes to facilitate them, not fight against them.

So although our intention to promote grit and “stick-to-attive-ness” in our children comes from a genuine hope to help them be successful, teaching and promoting brain breaks can help children learn to manage their emotions more effectively while working. And in addition, they may be able to extend their focused attention when they return to work with added motivation from the fuel they’ve gained.

Here are some simple ways to teach, practice, and promote the essential brain break.

Talk about the Brain Break during a regular (non-frustrating) homework time.

Or if homework is consistently frustrating, then pick a non-homework time to talk about how to take brain breaks.

Brainstorm ideas.

See if you can come up with a few ideas together. What can your child do when taking a brain break? You might ask: “What makes you feel better or gives you comfort when you’re feeling frustrated?” You can share some restorative ideas like walking outside and breathing in the fresh air, doing some jumping jacks or a yoga pose, getting a drink of water, or visiting a favorite stuffed friend. For young children, imitate your favorite animal. Hop like a bunny or jump from limb to limb like a squirrel. For older children, listen to your favorite song or play on a musical instrument. Have your child write or draw their ideas. Keep that paper in your homework location so that when it’s needed, you can remind your child to take a look at what ideas she’s had and pick one. Daniel Goleman’s book entitled “Focus; The Hidden Driver of Excellence” recommends getting outside in nature as one of the most restorative (and just stepping outside your front door counts!). He also writes that checking email, surfing the web, or playing video games are not restorative so avoid those when you are generating brain break ideas.

Discuss school brain breaks.

Yes, brain breaks are key at school too. But does your child’s teacher offer them? Even if they do, they are likely structured breaks for all students and may not serve your own child’s needs at the moment she has them. Help her learn self-management skills by figuring out what she can do in the midst of frustrating moments when she is sitting at her desk completing a worksheet or taking a test. Because mindfulness simply means becoming aware of your body and your thoughts and feelings (and holding compassion for those feelings – not judgement), it can be done anywhere. Your child could count to ten slowly while breathing deeply. Your child could tap each finger on her page individually while breathing noticing the touching sensation. She could wiggle each toe in her shoes noticing how that feels. These pauses can help her bring her focus back to her work.

Set a timer.

Brain breaks should not be long. After all, your child has work to accomplish and especially on school nights, time is limited. So allow enough time to move away and change the perspective but not so much time that your child gets involved in another activity. One to three minutes could be enough to accomplish that goal. Also, put your child in charge of the timer. You don’t want to be the one managing this break. Give your child that responsibility.

Do a dry run.

Practice is important before using it. Include deep breathing in your practice. For young children, try out hot chocolate breathing or teddy bear breathing to practice this important part of the break. For older children, you can merely count to ten while breathing or exaggerate the sound of your deep breathing together. Call “brain break.” Move away from work, breathe deeply, and try out your child’s idea for one restorative practice. This practice will ensure that she is well-rehearsed and can call upon that memory when she’s feeling frustrated and taken over by her flight or fight survival brain.

Notice, remind, and reinforce through reflection.

After you’ve generated ideas and practiced, then notice when you see your child getting frustrated. You might say, “I notice you have a frustrated look on your face. Would a brain break help?” Then after she does a brain break and her homework is complete, reflect. “Did that help you and how did it help you?” in order to maximize her learning.

For parents, teaching and promoting brain breaks with your child can serve as a helpful reminder to us. Yes, we also require brain breaks as we deal with a myriad of responsibilities and attempt to use focused attention with our child, as well as our work, as well as our household and social responsibilities. If you notice you are feeling overloaded with it all, how can you incorporate brain breaks into your own day to help you become more effective? I think I’ll take one…right now.

For Educators, check out this great article on Edutopia on how to incorporate brain breaks and other focusing activities into your daily classroom routines.

Brain Breaks and Focused Attention Practices


Goleman, D. (2013). Focus; The hidden driven of excellence. NY: Harper Collins.

Kim et al. (2018). Daily micro-breaks and job performance: General work engagement as a cross-level moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology. 103 (7) 772-786.

Originally published on February 17, 2019.

“Confident Parents, Confident Kids” To Be Published In Vietnamese

The Vietnamese publisher of parenting and self-help books, Thai Ha, is working with QuartoKnows Publishing Group. They will translate the new “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” book into Vietnamese and publish with the original illustrations next year. Thank you, Quarto, Fair Winds Press, and Thai Ha for this tremendous opportunity!

Watch the Unveiling of “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” — The Book!


It’s a big week for Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids as the first two final printed copies were received and… spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous! Thank you, Quarto/Fair Winds Press, Todd Conly, Meredith Quinn, Amanda Waddell, and Tina Wainscott of The Seymour Agency for your collaborative efforts to make this possible!

Watch Jennifer Miller and her son open up those first copies. It’s appropriate that it’s a book about kids’ big feelings and our big feelings as parents! How many big feelings can you tell Jennifer is experiencing in this video? Her son, Ethan is quieter but definitely experiencing some big feelings himself. Can you tell?

Today: Mindful Kids Peace Summit… “How to Fit In and Stand Out and Be Confident Teens”

Join today and catch my interview with Adam Avin along with interviews on:

  • Stressed Teens
  • Teens Stand Up and Speak Out
  • Coping with the Aftermath of Tragedy and Stopping the Violence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Parkland
  • Stressed Teens: Riding the Stress Waves and…

Jennifer Miller of CPCK will speak on…

How to Fit In and Stand Out and Be Confident Teens
Tweens and teens report that one of the greatest challenges they face are social pressures from friends, classmates and other peers. There’s pressure to be like others, to be interested in what others are interested in, and to spend your time like everyone else does. But most tweens and teens don’t fit the narrow identity those peers may assign them. How do you fit in and stand out? How do you define your unique identity under the watchful eye of peers? How do you stand your ground but also, have a solid group of friends? Jennifer will share some key lessons from successful social and emotional skill and mindfulness strategies that will build confidence and relationships.

8 Positive Strategies for Guiding Your Child Through Their Teenage Years

By Guest Author, Amy Petrou

Delighted to post today’s article from author Amy Petrou from Generation Mindful, an organization that supports families with toys and tools for building emotional intelligence, discussing some of the developmental themes of the teenage years and how parents and teens can work together through it all.

As children enter their teen years, they need to adapt in several ways. So too do their parents. Teenagers assert their independence since it is an important part of their journey to adulthood but they still need their parents to play an active role in their lives.

One of the biggest changes in the parent-child relationship is the amount of time your teen will want to spend with you. While they may have seemed quite attached to you before, as they grow older, they will want to spend more time with their friends. Even when they are at home, they may want to listen to music or hang out in their rooms alone.

It doesn’t mean they love you less, but they are naturally more inclined to operate on their own terms and they want more freedom. They’ll also learn to form their own opinions, make their own decisions, and take on more responsibility. While you may have less time with your teen, there are several ways to make that time enjoyable and meaningful. Taking a positive approach to parenting during this period can be very effective in growing a trusting and connected relationship.

Making the Most of Time with Your Teen

Sure, you want your child to see you as a parent and not a best friend but you still want them to know you’re fun and interesting. Talk to them about activities you find exciting or share fun parts of your day with them. Make an effort to do things together even if you don’t have common interests. Watching a game with them if they’re into sports or letting them teach you to play their favorite video game could bring you closer. 

At the same time, give your teenager space when they need it. They may not always be in the mood to talk or spend time with you. Instead of taking this personally, allow them to have time alone or spend time with their friends. Remember, they need their privacy just as much as you do. 

Helping Your Teen Develop a Positive Self-Identity 

Teenagers have a lot to figure out including their very self-identity. Their self-image is often closely tied to the feedback they get from their peers. Therefore, they’ll want to hear about how cool they are from their friends. However, they also value your opinion so make the effort to notice when they act responsibly or with kindness. The way they think and feel about themselves impacts their behavior. Help them develop positive self-identity by: 

  • Paying them genuine compliments. Show them that you notice more than their appearance by focusing on their wise choices, their creativity or their ability to act as a good friend. Recognizing your teen’s positive qualities encourages them to continue acting in similar ways.
  • Respecting their concerns.
  • Emphasizing the learning process they are involved in and showing them they can learn anything with time and effort. This lets them know they choose how to define themselves.
  • Paying close attention to who their friends are and which activities they’re involved in to offer support.
  • Attending their school events.
  • Encouraging them to explore new interests and activities.  

Finding Ways to Communicate Effectively 

When your child was younger, they may have been eager to tell you about every little part of their day. It may have been easy to get them to talk about their feelings while playing games. As they become teenagers, they are likely to be less open, not because they are hiding something but because they value their privacy and independence. You may need to change the way you communicate with them if you want to have effective conversations. 

It is a good idea to practice active listening. Give your teen your full attention when they’re speaking and focus on the feelings they express. Repeat the key points back to them. Saying something like “I get the impression that this made you sad” helps you avoid misunderstandings. It also helps the teenager to identify and handle their emotions. Respect their opinion even if you don’t agree with their point of view. 

To create opportunities for communication, you’ll need to be flexible. Scheduling quality time is important since it gives your child the assurance that you are available. Taking any available opportunity to catch up with them also allows for meaningful interaction and building trust. 

Teaching Teens Responsible Decision-Making 

By the time your child enters their teenage years, they will already have some values which they learned from their family, friends, and teachers. However, part of adolescence is about learning to make smart decisions based on personal values. Your child will be faced with choices that test and refine their morals and values. Your teen has a mind of their own, but they still look to you for guidance, even when it doesn’t seem like it. 

If you want them to have sound values, you must model the right behaviors. Think about the example you’re setting regarding things like respect for others, honesty, perseverance, and health. In addition, reflecting on ethical dilemmas and leaving questions open-ended offers your teen valuable practice in thinking through actions and consequences. They get an opportunity to practice applying those values to real-life problems they might face. 

Teaching Teens About Choices and Logical Consequences 

Establishing and following through on rules and boundaries is about striking a balance. Your child needs to make more decisions on their own but if you’re overly permissive, they may make unwise decisions. They often don’t understand how their actions could have lifelong consequences. If you’re wondering about the best way to teach self-discipline, consider the following: 

Make the Rules Clear

If your teen knows the rules, they can be held accountable when they break them. Consider getting input from them on rules regarding curfew or having friends over since this can help make them more responsible. It is a good idea to post the rules in an area where they can easily see them.

Listen to Your Child’s Reasoning

As an adult, you know that there are sometimes valid reasons for breaking the rules. Find out why your teenager deviated from what you agreed on instead of acting right away. Maybe their extra-curricular activity really did run late, or they had good reasons for missing the bus. Also, learn about rules together so that you can co-create them with information to back them up. For example, collaboratively researching the science-backed sleep requirements for your teen’s age can help you to agree on a bedtime or curfew. 

Ensure the Consequences Match the Action

If your teenager goes to a party even though you told them not to, grounding them may be an appropriate response. However, if they didn’t study for a test and they got a poor grade, that’s a natural consequence. No additional parent consequences are needed but reflecting on it together can help a teen think through what happened and how they might make changes the next time. 

How can they repair the damage that they’ve caused whether it’s a broken chair or a broken friendship? Ask them for ideas on how they can mend the relationship and then, support them in following through. This teaches them how to take responsibility for their actions and it takes bravery. Your guidance and support through this process can go a long way in showing them how to make up for their poor choices. 

Let the Small Things Go

If your child’s action or belief doesn’t hurt them or anyone else, don’t focus on it too much. If they wear their hair in a way you don’t like, as long as it is not inappropriate for school or another setting, avoid fussing about it. Focus on the bigger issues which really affect their growth and development. 

To Sum Up

Guiding your child through their teenage years requires different strategies than those which worked during pre-adolescence. You will need to maintain a balance between learning about, co-creating, and upholding rules and letting your child make their own decisions. Even if it seems like they don’t need you anymore, they do. Use the positive parenting tips outlined here to help you parent more effectively.


Amy Petrou is a content advocate at GenMindful.com, and a mother of two. In her free time you will find her writing on her blog, reading and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection.

Check out…

Generation Mindful creates a tools and toys that nurture emotional intelligence of our new generation. Our goal is to serve as an inspiration for our community to embrace positive discipline mindfully and playfully.

Here’s one of their terrific family games to enjoy time together while building your children’s emotional vocabulary:

Feelings Bingo

%d bloggers like this: