How many times growing up did you hate it when an adult told you the phrase “these kids these days?” If you are like me you HATED it!
Well a few decades and my own child, quite a few nieces and nephews, cousins and friends’ kids later, and I find myself expressing or thinking the exact same thing.
Our kids have literally no attention span—or so it seems. If we are honest about it, neither do we, but that’s a story for another day, I think.
Technology has been an amazing advancement but at the same time it has made it so difficult for our kids to focus or stay on task.
That’s not my tale though for today!
Surprisingly, I’ve found an incredibly useful function of one social media technology tool in particular—Snapchat.
For those that know me, I am the mom of an older child with learning differences and I co-founded and am President of a non-profit for Autism, The Tommy Foundation, for individuals with Autism and Related Conditions.
Well in my world, ability to stay focused is usually an issue for sure and many times there are so many distractions in the environment that can set off our loved ones.
We can feel bombarded by noises, smells, sounds, visual input and so forth that can make seemingly simple or even fun activities—like say bowling- a real chore.
In the last year or so of my daily life and my work with kids, I’ve found that a little snapchat sprinkled in to the lives of the kids—and even their parents—really goes A LONG WAY.
1. Work Story
When I see a child approaching anxiety or frustration mode, rather than assume the worst, I take a deep breath and offer up my phone and some filters so that the child can refocus on something else for a bit.
The results are incredible. 9 times out of 10, if you catch it before it turns into a meltdown, the child or individual will completely forget why they were starting to get upset and will want to take picture after picture.
How is this useful?
Well, when you are in a public place where you need to take turns, all of a sudden you now have a tool that allows your child to actually relax and wait without resorting to having to yell at them or be physically restrictive with them—which can cause some embarrassment that might make an experience that was supposed to be fun, much less so.
2. Personal Story
Over the weekend, my husband and I worked with a dear friend on a new communication system for our son. Our friend, Julie, has known our son and worked on and off with him with a variety of therapies throughout the years.
This time though we were learning something that allows us to have our son find a new way to open up with us and let us understand more about what he’s actually taken in all these years.
The specifics of that are something for another day, but for now, I will say that the process of learning how to “letterboard” – using alphabet boards to point and communicate with us is something that can be rewarding and super frustrating for everyone involved.
It will take years and a lot of commitment for him to become “fluent” but it’s a task we are more than willing to take on and which requires a lot of us and our boy.
In the meantime though, the moments of frustration and stress can really be killers to the mood needed to move on and really push through to help him be successful in communicating and for us to be successful as his voice.
Again, Enter Snapchat – a non-food based motivation that won’t make you create bad eating habits (common complaint among parents and caretakers of other motivators used) that can help someone stay focused and on task or which can be offered as a reward.
Our goal each day is to make it through two, 20-25 minute, session on a lesson we do. Well today that 20-25 minutes took over an hour and half because of his body not wanting to cooperate and his frustration.
A few silly videos and pics later and my boy forgot all about his frustration. He rocked his lesson in the end and we spent just as much time having fun as we did practicing something that made him work harder than he ever has before.
So stinking proud of my kid. He’s truly a rockstar!
3. Make it About Bonding
I live in the world of the “differently abled”.
It’s something I was thrust into as a mom and then choose voluntarily as a co-founder of a non-profit that deals with the issue.
I am full in, I was drafted and I accepted fully.
Now, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be hard. You are allowed to have fun. You are allowed to make things playful and enjoyable and silly.
So many of our social media tools can be isolating—despite their intent to bring us together. One of the values I’ve found with any child really, but especially with ones that are more visual thinkers, is to have a tool that allows you to use filters and sounds to help you express ourselves, to see ourselves in a different light, and share a moment with a loved one.
Some of my favorite bonding moments lately have involved this tool.
I’m not at all embarrassed to use it as a tool to help me bond with these kids that I love and I want to connect with.
For me, it’s all about connecting with them at a human level and modeling love, joy and togetherness.
What about you?
What tools do you use to connect and create joy with your loved ones?
Sound off in the comments and to update a “classic” from when my kiddo was a Disney-channel-holic in the past from “Kim Possible” : “email, snap me, if you want to reach me, if you want to facebook me it’s okay. Whenever you need me baby, email, snap me if you want to reach me.”
My Snap and Instagram Name is: Miss Sugey