I’ve been asked question a few times so this week I’m answering this email: Dear Belinda – I wondered if you have any advice for how to deal with young adults living at home who are struggling with addiction to technology? I am at such a loss and can see my son is hurting himself with his distraction and addiction to scrolling on his phone but nothing we say has made a difference. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. So this week we are looking at – How to Help Adult Children Living at Home with Screen Time Habits
It is a hard one, and one we’ve worked on as well. And let me say that screen addiction is a thing for boys and girls. They may be doing inappropriate things on their devices – or they may being doing good things or okay things – for too long, making it unhealthy.
First up there has to be a step back because they are adults so our engagement with them on this issue, as a parent, has to be slightly different than if they were a teenager (under18)
We can only speak into their lives
- Because we love them
- Because their behaviour is affecting others in the house
- Because they invite us in
Let’s look at all three
1-Because we love them
If we have a relationship with them, we can talk to them and tell them what we are observing and why and why we are concerned. We have to be logical, factual and non-emotional. We also have to see it from their perspective/their world – just because we don’t like something, or we prefer something else – it is your preference against theirs – and they win that one because its their life and they are an adult.
One strategy I have used is to come at any conversation from the angle of starting with what they want for their life and how you see their current behaviour limiting their goals. And then be able to shape the conversation in terms of your desire to help them reach their goals.
Another aspect of this is for us to ensure that they have a sense of purpose for their life. Not just in a career sense, but rather in their identity as a created being living in God’s created world: God has given them gifts and abilities to use – do they know what those gifts are, do they know how they can use those gifts and abilities and find fulfilment and glorify God.
Whenever we start a conversation where we would prefer that they change – we have to be careful. We may be able to introduce our concern because we love them – but we then need to be guided by their response. Our love doesn’t automatically assume that we can speak into their lives or that they will listen.
2- (We can speak to them) Because their behaviour is affecting others in the house
This is an issue of boundaries and respect for others living together. Each situation will differ in this regard but it is something to think about.
Another aspect of boundaries and living together is the issue of fulfilling their responsibilities as a member of the household. And if not – that is the conversation that needs to happen, not attacking them but raising the family standard of living with respect, harmony and responsiblitiy with each other.
It is also our responsibility, when we live with people, to respect their needs, to be courteous, helpful and engaging. Are their choices affecting their relationships – and what are they going to do about that? The key to any conversation we have with an over 18year old is – what are you going to do about it, and is there any way I can helpyou?
A Bible verse that was often shared with my kids is – Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
This verse applies to our kids and their interactions with people in the house – but it also applies to us, as the parents, and how we approach our kids who live in our house.
3- (We can speak to them) Because they invite us in.
Your child may well want you to help them transition into adulthood (to launch so to speak), or they may respond to one of your conversations from point 1&2 – and accept your input. This sounds great – and it is – but it is still fraught with walking a tightrope line. You can only give as much as they want – they will push back, and they will ignore you, or they may well take your thoughts on board. We cannot force anything, nor get upset or offended if they invited comments and then ignored our advice and insight. It is very tricky!! Acknowledging this possibility before you talk to them will help you respond well regardless of their response.
If they invite you in – you have the freedom to say as much as they will listen to – but I suggest that you put on a coach hat, and go between giving them the information that you know because you’ve walked ahead – and then engaging with them, and asking how they are going to go forward – giving them the ownership of choices. Coaching or mentoring your young adult children is very much about conversations and goals and you sharing insights but not making the final decision.
We must each take Personal Responsibility
Remember we are each responsible for our responses.
We cannot force or demand that another person changes in ways we want.
This sense of personal responsibility starts with us. We must know what areas of family life we are responsible for as the parents, or home owner, or head of the family – and what areas are the personal responsibility of each member of the family.
Two keys that I think underpin our ability to talk to our kids regardless of the issues really is:
- Respect – we must respect our adult children as people who are made in the image of God, and on their own journey of self-governing. I think three words are paramount for parenting teenagers and young adults and that is love, mercy and grace. And no situation that our young adult faces, or we struggle with is outside of the bounds of Jesus being our example in offering love, mercy and grace.
- Coaching – coaching is a technique that parents of older teens and young adults need to get a handle on. Coaching is basically asking good questions to help the other person think about their beliefs and choices, and then holding them accountable where they want you to hold them accountable.
Heart-focused Action Step
If you have young adult children living at home then now is a good time to reflect on how you have been engaging with them when they are doing things you struggle with – or not doing things you think they should be.
Bottom line is relationship, relationship, relationship – if you speak because you think you have the right to, then you are at risk of breaking or bruising your relationship. Is the issue worth that? At first we think it is – but seriously think about that. To borrow words of my mother – what is going to matter in 10 years time? Only the fact that you have a relationship with your child.
So I may not have answered your specific question but, ultimately you can’t control the screen time an adult child has – But with a relationship and a coaching mindset, we can get alongside and help them grow and be healthy in all areas of life – which will help them find a healthy balance of screen time.
Mentoring is a Part of Family Life: It maybe counter-cultural for parents to mentor their own teens and young adults; but it is a part of a heart-focused family life.
10 Tips to Build Relationship with your Teen: You can have a relationship with your teen and still be the parent if you are prepared to be intentional and heart focused.
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