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Kids: Unplugged

Our kids love watching television and playing video games.  We, as parents, want our kids to be more physically active, socially involved, and intellectually stimulated.  We try to interest our kids in sports, art classes, music lessons, etc. . . . but our kids don’t seem to care about these activities.  If our kids try the activities at all, they quickly lose interest in them and return to their trusty television programs and video games.  What can we do to curry our kids’ interest in activities that are good for them and give them a break from nearly obsessive television viewing and video game playing?

First, we need to seek to understand what is driving their current choices.  Are they creatures of habit?  Is it that they have watched television and played video games enough that that is their comfort zone?  Are they thinking that they cannot do well at other activities?  Are they feeling socially awkward?  Are they experiencing depression?  Is there a medical condition that makes them prefer inertia to activity?

Next, we need to respond to their motivators.

If their choices are borne of habit, then we can say, “I know you really enjoy watching TV and playing your video games, but I’d like you to do one active thing outside the house every day.  I’ll give you three choices that I think you may like, and I’d like you to choose one of them.  Whichever you choose, you’ll need to see it through to its conclusion.  There’ll be no quitting after a day or two.  Ok?  Here are the three choices that, if you give them a chance, I think you’ll really like:  summer camp, taking a pottery class at the local arts center, and music lessons of whatever variety you’d like.  Do you need to think through your options, or do you already know which one you choose?”

If their choices are borne of their own assessment of probable failure, their feeling of social awkwardness, and/or their depression, then we should help them assess their strengths and weaknesses realistically, treat themselves kindly, and set reasonable expectations for themselves.  We should discuss with them what represents healthy social interaction in our culture and how to overcome depression.  If our efforts do not yield some signs of positive results within approximately one month, or if their depression appears to be significant, we may be well advised to seek professional counsel.  Once the positive results (i.e., signs of renewed interest in outside interaction) begin to manifest, we can then provide our kids with options as detailed in the paragraph above.

If their choices are borne of their not feeling well, then we need to have them examined and treated by their pediatrician.  Kids are supposed to be bundles of energy.  If our kids are feeling drained of energy, if it is difficult or painful for them to be active, then we need to find and treat the ailment that is causing them problems.  Once the symptoms of the ailment are addressed, we can then provide our kids with options as detailed above.

In prompting our kids to undertake a new activity that is outside their comfort zone, we can reasonably expect our kids to be hesitant.  We must stand lovingly firm.  When our kids see that they must have some interest or activity besides television viewing and video game playing, they will reluctantly choose an activity that (hopefully) they will grow to love.

After the activity has run its course (i.e., summer camp is over, the pottery class is done, etc.), we can visit with our kids about how they liked the activity.  If they liked the activity, great!  What would they like to do to develop that interest further?  If they didn’t like the activity, then they will need to choose a different activity for the next period of time . . . and, again, they will need to see it through to its conclusion.  Further assessment can be made following each activity’s conclusion.

Once we have found an activity that our kids like, we may want to help our kids branch out and find other related activities that are of interest to them.  For example, if our kids liked taking voice lessons, would they also like to learn to play an instrument, take a music appreciation class, or learn to dance?   Our goal, of course, is to help our kids become well-rounded adults who know a great deal about what life has to offer them, what their skills and interests are, and how they can excel and be happy.

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