Heads Up!

By Annie Lane

January 2, 2020 4 min read

Dear Annie: Recently, I retired from youth sports coaching. I am writing this letter to warn your readers about an alarming trend that I have noticed over the last decade. Namely, parents will attend their kids' sporting events, but then spend most of the time on their smartphones.

This is very different from seeing people glued to their phone screens in an airport or doctor's waiting room or other places in which they would not normally socialize. I am talking about the people who are parents or guardians at their kids' practices or games.

Their actions tell their kids that they and their activities are not important enough to hold their attention. It's a bad message. The kids do something great and look to the sidelines for parental approval and get nothing. I've even had parents approach me after a game to ask me to describe their child's goal because they missed it.

There is going to be more and more tech. It's not about the phone, as such. It is about people knowing their role as parents and having the restraint to focus their attention appropriately. Do people own phones or are they owned by them? — Former Youth Coach

Dear Former Youth Coach: Your letter brings up an important distinction. Staring at a screen is never that healthy, and there is a time when it is especially harmful — when parents are supposed to be watching and supporting their children.

While your physical presence is nice, your attention to the game, and your child, is what matters. If you are just staring at a screen, your kid doesn't get that reassurance and love they need to do their best. They might wonder why you're even there or if they are worth your attention.

Children watch and mimic everything. If you want to keep your child off of smartphones, put the phone down and be in the moment. Present but absent parents can cause great damage to their children.

Dear Annie: I am a survivor of the flooding after Hurricane Katrina. One lesson I learned from that horrific experience is that I had lost a lot of "stuff" that I didn't need to replace. Many of us accumulate far too many worldly goods. In lieu of exchanging more stuff, my friends now plan outings together and pick up the tab for the celebrant. We have attended jazz concerts, visited museums and watched movies together. We live in New Orleans where there are great restaurants, so we usually include a meal, too. We enjoy each other's company while having great life experiences. And we don't accrue more stuff that we have to maintain and store. — Less Stuff, More Fun.

Dear Less Stuff: I am sorry for all that you had to endure during and after Hurricane Katrina. It sounds like you were able to take a horrible situation and find a silver lining. The memories and experiences that you create with friends and family are priceless, and you see that. Congratulations on enjoying deeper friendships through fun and joyous experiences.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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