It’s difficult to maintain relationships across borders. If you live and work in one country and your family or spouse is in another, it’s hard work staying connected and aware of the children’s school performance and their general well-being.
It’s important to stay in touch with family so that your relationships don’t become strained. Luckily, with smartphones and modern technology we are spoiled with apps such as Skype and Facetime to make video calls cheap and easy. There are also many other messaging apps that allow us to send messages, pictures, or voice notes to our families and receive them in return.
Children quick to learn how to use all these gadgets and it can even be fun for them to send you pictures of their day and share moments with you from far away.
Unfortunately, all these applications and ways to communicate have also had a negative impact on our lives. Children spend too much time on social media and all of us are developing bad posture because we look down at our phones more and more – we text while we drive, while we walk, and while we commute. We check our emails and our social networks first thing in the morning and last thing at night. When we have a spare moment, we automatically open these applications.
We don’t have technological downtime anymore and the negative effects of this are showing. We struggle to sleep at night because the blue light of the screen keeps our brains awake. We don’t look out the window anymore and we don’t see what is going on around us. Our children don’t know a world without social media and they end up comparing themselves to what they see others doing online. They’d rather stay inside and text than play outside in the sun.
It’s essential that we have more offline time and it’s important for parents to teach this to their children. But how do you encourage technological downtime while still encouraging your family to stay in touch with you on the other side of the planet? It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but there are a few ways in which you can live a healthy life without losing contact with your loved ones.
1) Offline time in the morning
Research has shown that people who log into social networks as soon as they wake up in the morning end up in worse moods than people who enjoy some offline time first thing in the morning. Make a rule in your house and your loved ones’ house back home to take at least 30 minutes to one hour in the morning free of any internet-related activities.
There are many things you can do in the morning to set your day up right. You could try meditating, or if that is too intimidating, you can simply enjoy some quiet time with your coffee. You could start a journal about your time abroad that you can one day give to your family. You could do exercise – it is also known that exercising in the morning leads to a much healthier and productive day. Perhaps you enjoy reading or you want to learn something new. Early mornings are the best time to work on personal pursuits.
If having some technological downtime in the morning means getting up a bit earlier, then that is also good.
2) Check in with your family before the day starts
After everyone has spent some time devoid of social networks, check in with each other before your day gets really busy. Set an alarm or decide on a certain time every morning when you send you Good Morning message. Teach this habit to your kids. Knowing that your family is safe and sound before your day starts will also reassure you that they’re there and thinking of you.
3) Set certain times for being online and being offline
It’s difficult to teach your kids not to overdo social networks when you also expect them to chat with you. The same goes for your spouse. Setting times when you video chat or when you message each other will allow for much more offline time, as you won’t be checking your messages so regularly. You know there will be a slot later when you can chat to each other freely. This will give both you and your family the chance to go about your day and focus on the tasks at hand. Long distance relationships often lead to one or both parties obsessing over their phones, waiting for messages or trying to share every moment of their day. Having one or two slots in a day for catching up makes it much less stressful. Share everything you have to share in this time and go back to your own life afterwards.
4) Encourage offline time before bed
It’s important that both you and your children have offline time before bed. Don’t allow them to chat and text until they fall asleep. Don’t sleep with a cellphone under you pillow or right by your bedside. Rather say your goodnights well before bedtime and have some phone-free time before you sleep. This will help your brain to unwind and to shut down and it will lead to much better sleep.