By Janell Burley Hofmann
IT’S HARD TO imagine the slow days of
summer closing out on my family already.
Even as I linger over the final ocean swims,
oversize ice cream cones and summer camp
talent shows, I can feel the buzz of the back-to-school days ahead. The crisp new notebooks, sparkling lunch boxes and perfectly
stuffed backpacks are eager to be put to work.
The carpool is planned, the football schedule
is pinned up in the kitchen and our to-do list
is lined with items such as dentist, haircuts
and new shoes. I can feel the carefree present
slipping past and the practical systems of our
household shifting to center stage.
I must admit that I don’t dread the structure. I look forward to a fresh start, new
beginnings and change that clears a path to
eventual predictability. After years of raising
school-age children, what I know for sure is
that homework, parent nights and after-school activities will dominate family life until
we come to a screeching halt for the holidays.
Still, each year at this time, I need to lay a new
foundation—or at least a polished one—to
help my family reach its highest level of function. After all, families change and grow right
along with their needs and goals—as both
individuals and as a group.
One of the areas most affected by the need
for maintenance, evaluation and discussion is
technology. Back-to-school season is a great
time for tech inventory. A parent of five children from early elementary school to high
school age, I’m constantly assessing the
boundaries around technology. Keeping in
mind the personal tendencies, age differences
and academic needs of each child, I can build
a set of guidelines, or iRules, prior to the start
of school that can help with tech success in the
home. Below are a series of questions and suggestions to use as the leisurely days of summer
end and families get back to business.
; What devices does each of my children
have? What do we have as a family? Make a list.
; Are the devices being used in balance
or in a way that negatively impacts the family
system by increasing struggle, distraction or
back to school
rules for family
The Costco Connection
Costco warehouses and Costco.com carry
a variety of phones, tablets, computers and
other tech items for students and families.
chronic attachment? Assess each child and
device to make tech-healthy habits.
; How can I preserve family time
together, plus creative and unscheduled
downtime, without being plugged in?
Implement “no phone zones” and consistently tech-free times of day—for children
and adults—such as the dinner table, bedtime, on car rides and/or during homework.
; What’s an attainable formula for our
family and what feels important enough to
enforce? Set agreed-upon rules that are clear
and that will work for your family: Home work,
outdoor play or chores come before tech each
weekday. No video games during the week.
; What are the consequences for not
complying with house iRules? Identify the
expectations—a loss of privilege, discussion
or tech takeaway that feels appropriate—in
the event of violations.
The most exciting piece of creating family
iRules is that it encourages discussion between
parents, children and those caring for children.
It heightens tech awareness—what we do well
and where we can grow. It opens dialogue. We
can get curious with our children, asking what
devices, games and social networking sites they
prefer and why they like them. We can discuss
all of the ways our lives are tech positive: funny
AUGUST 2014 ;e Costco Connection 27
CONTINUED ON PAGE 28