South Florida Parenting
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Ditch the screens and put in some face time this holiday season

Americans check their phones, on average, once every 12 minutes and up to 80 times a day, according to research study recently reported by the “New York Post.”

That’s a whole lot of Facebooking and phone looking. So parents must wonder what sort of example we’re setting for our children. How can we call out our kids for too much screen time when we are just as guilty?

One immediate way to recharge the family is by simply unplugging and re-engaging in face-to-face conversations. Many books and activities have been developed to help families do just that.

In “Stop Staring At Screens,” author Tanya Goodin encourages families to undergo a digital detox to become more cohesive and build more meaningful relationships.

Goodin’s book helps families schedule screen-free moments of the day and inspires them to get offline, go outside and create tangible activities. Goodin recommends creating a physical memory box of printed family photos and cards and writing letters of appreciation to family members that can be read later.

“We need to be mindful, not mindless, when we use our devices,” Goodin writes. “Act as each other’s coaches and encourage everyone to take a break when screen use seems to be going on too long.”

She suggests engaging in more mindful scrolling by setting an intention and limits on screen time and even implementing “no-phone zones” in areas of the home.

Caela Farren, Ph.D., of Delray Beach, realized the value of unplugging several years ago and decided to create a deck of cards to bring children and families closer together. Farren and her co-developer, Fiona Blackie, who died in August after battling cancer, spent three years working on their project: Wonder Kids Cards.

Their goal was to improve the relationship between parents and children and and among siblings and friends.

“We started asking, ‘How can we have conversations with kids about values?’ These days, ethical questions are coming up constantly.”

The 38 double-sided Wonder Kids Cards are $19.99 on Wonderkidscards.com. They are based on 11 comprehensive principles for a happy life including: awe and wonder, connection with nature, forgiveness, gratitude, harmony, intentionality, kindness, learning, listening, love and self-expression.

The deck also comes with a link to a downloadable workbook that complements the cards.

Questions range from “What made you happy today?” and “What made you smile?” to “What questions would you like adults in your life to ask you?”

“The cards are recommended for ages 5 and up, but you can essentially start using the cards whenever you want to,” said Farren, a mother and grandmother who spent a decade as a nun with the Sisters of Charity.

“It’s never too early to start talking about the importance of values and give parents who aren’t religious another way to connect with their children on what’s important in life and create a bond.”

The cards have made fans of marketing gurus Ken Horkavy and Alyson Gold.

“I used the cards with my nieces, and it really got her to open up about something that would’ve never came up if we didn’t start discussing this card,” Gold said.

“I think with everything that’s going on in the world right now, empathy and gratitude are needed more than ever. You can pull a card from the deck and discuss it over dinner or in the car on a road trip.”

Horkavy, who is also executive director of Aurora’s Voice, a community garden program for children in Lake Worth, said he hopes the cards will inspire families to rediscover compassion and develop more self-awareness.

“We can change this world so quickly,” Horkavy said. “The goal is to put electronics down and discover the humanity that’s sitting right across the table. Plant the seeds and start the discussion with children and teens. We need their view now more than ever.”

Joanie Cox-Henry is a mom and writer from Boca Raton.

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