I can't talk to my mom because she's distracted by her phone

Dr. Cathleen McGreal

I know you usually answer questions from parents – but I’m a 14-year-old with a question about my mom. She spends all her time on her phone checking Facebook and Instagram – I’d really like to be able to talk to her without her being distracted. How can I bring this up?

Before you were born, back in 2000, a survey was conducted for the White House Conference on Teenagers. Adolescents and their parents were asked family life concerns. One-fifth of the teens mentioned not spending enough time with parents was their greatest concern. On the other hand, only a tenth of the moms and dads were most concerned about the amount of time spent with children. I was startled by these findings since many times adults think that teens have more than their fill of parents! It is great that you recognize this and want to bring it up with your mom.

The appeal of social media. Often, teenagers are thought of as the group that overuses social networking sites. But many aspects have an appeal for adults as well. When an adult is feeling out of touch with friends or family who live far away, then Facebook and Instagram are ways to stay connected. If life is seems overwhelming, then there are others at hand to provide a short encouraging response or react with a sad face. Given her level of use, it is obvious your mom is getting some sort of boost by using social media. But the situation is out of balance since she is missing out on deepening emotional connections in her own home.

Share your feelings. Your mom may not be aware of your desire to interact more. Tell her that you would like to have a conversation while taking a walk or going for a drive to a favorite spot. Ask her to turn her phone off or on vibrate so that you can talk to her without interruptions. This may lead you into the discussion since she could wonder why that makes a difference. Try not to get defensive if she finds this challenging to do, but just explain that it is important to have her full attention when you talk.

Plan specific activities. Before your conversation, mull over different activities that would be fun to do with your mom. Does she have hobbies or skills you would like to learn from her while you still live at home? Many crafts require two hands and aren’t conducive to cell phone use! Are there places nearby you could explore together? Be ready to make suggestions of ways to spend some time together that wouldn’t involve social media.

In a recent homily, Pope Francis focused on Luke 2:19: “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart!” The pope said: “Deep within, she had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history. She learned how to be a mother, and in that learning process she gave Jesus the beautiful experience of knowing what it is to be a Son.”

Even Mary had to learn how to be a mother. Pray for your own mother as she continues to listen to God’s heartbeat.