A Hand in Hand Parenting Approach To Screen Detox


With Hand in Hand Parenting we’re not a one-size fits all approach. We don’t recommend you breastfeed or bottle feed, or co-sleep or put your children in their own bedroom, or homeschool or send your kids to school. We know that with these big decisions, it comes down to you being the best judge of what is right for your family.

What we do have is amazing tools to help you figure out your decisions, (listening time), and then putting those decisions into action with lots of listening along the way through, special time, playlistening, setting limits, and staylistening.

Screentime can be a particularly difficult thing to make decisions about. I know I’ve often felt confused and overwhelmed about all the different ways to handle it, from complete abstinence to letting children have the freedom to set their own limits. Neither side of the spectrum has ever felt completely right for me, and so I jump around in the middle, setting limits depending on what the current situation seems to need.

I’ll add links to the various ways I’ve used the Hand in Hand tools to navigate the screentime challenge, but now I’m here to write about using Hand in Hand Parenting to have a screen detox for your family.

This is something that I’ve decided to do only recently. My daughter’s in Kindergarten now, and it had become a habit to come home and want to veg out in front of the TV. Due to a family crises I was feeling particularly disconnected myself, and it suddenly crept up on me just how much screentime we were having.

Although I set limits on screentime using the Hand in Hand approach my daughter does have screentime every day. I had resigned myself to the fact that screens are part of our lives, but now I was having second thoughts. With the daily separation of Kindergarten we need more time to reconnect and screens were getting in the way.

I found myself missing the days when my daughter was under 2 and hadn’t yet discovered TV, and mourning the fact that I couldn’t go back to them.

And then it hit me. I was the parent. If it felt right to go back to the screenfree days, then I could! Maybe not permanently, but perhaps for a day or week, or month, or whatever I decided was best for my family.

And so I introduced the idea of having a ‘together day’ where we would both get off our screens and simply be together for the whole day. Our first together day was spent, cooking and laughing together, and lots of listening to ”I’m bored.”

It was setting limits on my own screentime, that made me feel brave enough to try the detox. I knew how good it felt for me to have an afternoon and evening off the screen, so I knew it was a good thing for me to step in, be the parent, and set a limit. I’ve also been to Hand in Hand Parenting retreats recently which really gave me that deep feeling of being connected to people – rather than screens. I realised I could do that for my daughter, I could give her a daylong retreat where she could tell me how much she wanted screen, and release her emotional backpack by crying, and then show me how off-track she felt by throwing things on the floor, and laughing as I playfully set limits.

My daughter told me throughout the day that she ‘hated together days’ and I began to see that this was a ‘broken cookie’. All those upset feelings were bubbling up without the distraction of the screen, and she was projecting them onto needing the screen.

At dinnertime she helped me pour out rice to cook and some ended up going on the kitchen table. We ended up having a rice fight where my daughter was grabbing handfuls of rice, and trying to run out of the kitchen with it. At this point she said, ”I love together days!” This was the validation I needed that this was the right path for us to take.

The other great thing about the day, is that I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and I didn’t check my phone all afternoon except for a few essential messages. It felt so liberating!

I still haven’t figured it all out. I know TV is an inspiration for my daughter. She likes to make her own videos to send to family and friends, and she recently videoed herself singing a Kindergarten song to help her learn it. I think it would be pretty authoriarian of me to ban something that she will need to use for adult life, and can be a source of knowledge and a tool for creativity.

I’ve read a lot about unschooling, and allowing my daughter to set limits on her own TV use has worked to some extent. There’s been many times when she’s voluntarily stopped watching and gone to do something else. There’s so much to be learnt from unschooling about respecting our children, and allowing them to direct their own learning. But what I found when I was not setting many limits on TV is that we did have less time to laugh, to play and connect, to allow feelings to bubble up and be healed.

I’m happy I’ve named the concept of ‘together days’ to my daughter, and I’m planning to bring them into our life whenever it seemed necessary to reconnect. And part of me does feel like doing something radical like banning screens on weekdays, or banning them completely! I know I’m going to need a lot of listening time to sort through my thoughts and come to a decision that feels right. Although I’m writing this blog to share what I’ve learnt so far, I definitely don’t have all the answers!

From here onwards I can’t tell what our family policy on screens will be but this one of the things about Hand in Hand Parenting is you don’t need to be consistent. You can go with the flow of your family life, changing the rules to suit the circumstances. Because there’s one thing that’s always guiding your decisions; your love for your child and your commitment to building a strong connection with them.

6 Step To Having A Screen Detox With Your Child 

  1. Have some listening time. Prepare in advance by talking to your listening partner about your feelings about having the detox. What fears, and worries come up for you? Let out all your feelings about screens and how they impact your life and your child. See the further resources section for more info on listening time.
  2. Set some limits on your own screentime. Try out limiting your own screentime. For example check your emails 2-3 times a day only, or don’t have screentime first thing in the morning or after 7pm at night. Repeat step 1 if it’s hard!
  3. Tell your child what you plan to do. Let your child know in advance that you plan to have a break from screens, and although it will be hard, they’ll be lots of time for fun and connection.
  4. Listen, listen, listen! – Schedule some special time with your child/children, and be prepared to get through the detox with lots of staylistening and playlistening. You might find my 5 Ways To Encourage Independent Play article helpful. If it’s really hard then try not to give in to the pleas for the screen. If your children have been used to having a lot of screen, it’s probably not a sign that they are feeling deprived but more that they have been using screentime to avoid their feelings, and what you are seeing is all these unheard feelings bubbling up.
  5. Have more listening time to process everything. Talk to your listening partner about how it all went, and how you want to approach screens in the future. Do you want to stick with your current family policy, or change it?
  6. Don’t be afraid to change the plan. So you’re exhausted and need to cook dinner and just can’t listen anymore. Or the detox is going great, and you think your child needs more time to process their feelings? Don’t be afraid to change and adapt, using your best thinking for what suits your child’s needs, and yours!

If you try to out this detox plan, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Further Resources 

If you’re new to the concept of listening partnerships check out my introductory post here.

Here are a few of my previous articles on screentime.

What To Do When Your Child Just Wants To Watch TV 

Why Setting Limits On Screentime Starts With You 

Screentime Special Time

Are you looking for more in-depth help with screentime, or any other parenting challenge? Contact me to schedule a free 30 min introductory consultation, and find out how Hand in Hand Parenting can help. 

3 thoughts on “A Hand in Hand Parenting Approach To Screen Detox

  1. thanks Hayley! It works really well. I wrote this a while back but posted it again on facebook as I realised we needed to try it again in our family. I notice so much, like how unsconciously I use screentime as a pacifier when I’m feeling tired, and want to check out. Good luck!

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