We Need Your Advice: How Do You Deal With Transitions?

In my work as a child psychologist, one of the things I see worrying parents the most is the “addictive” nature of social media and video game play. While I view most technology usage to be cognitively challenging and useful for kids, many parents worry about their kids only wanting to do things that involve a screen. And when it comes to kids with ADHD, Autism, and Learning Disabilities, stopping video game play can cause intense distress and arguments, to the point where many parents no longer want them to play games, no matter what the potential benefit may be.

My LearningWorks for Kids team regularly shares strategies for setting effective screen time limits, but we don’t have all of the answers. Some of the best ideas for setting screen time limits have come from parents of patients in my clinical practice. These parents know first-hand that children with cognitive and learning differences require a measured and thoughtful approach to limit-setting.

So I think it’s about time we asked you, our LW4K audience:

How do you deal with transitions? What works best in your home?

Do you have a tried and true method for helping your child with ADHD, ASD, or learning differences transition away from video games and other tech devices? Have you found a technique that makes the switch a bit more bearable? Be a hero and share your tips and strategies with other parents facing the same challenges!

Use the comments section of this article to share the ways you manage to balance technology with other aspects of your life. Please answer the questions below and be as specific and thorough as possible. I want to understand this issue better so that I can make recommendations to families that deal with difficult transitions on a regular basis. You’ll get all the credit if we use your comments in future posts.

  1. Which games do your children have the most difficulty stepping away from?
  2. Describe time limits or schedules that seem to help your child accept and adhere to screen time limits and deal with transitions.
  3. How do you limit your own screen time?
  4. What do you do to encourage alternative activities to screen time?
  5. What tools, apps, or technologies do you use to set screen time limits?

Thanks again for your help. We appreciate you. Do you have a concern of your own about parenting in the digital age? You can write to me anytime! Leave a comment or come talk to LearningWorks for Kids on Facebook.


Featured image: Flickr user Seth Werkheiser

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3 thoughts on “We Need Your Advice: How Do You Deal With Transitions?

  1. Which games do your children have the most difficulty stepping away from? Fighting games, skylanders, minecraft

    Describe time limits or schedules that seem to help your child accept and adhere to screen time limits and deal with transitions. Routine is the most important tool in our house. Mon-thurs, no video games or tv; however, they may be awarded screen times by completing homework in a timely manner or completing morning routines in a timely manner. On weekends their screen time is limited, I make sure to give them time limit warnings and countdowns to ensure there are no meltdowns. If they refuse, thru lose out next time.

    How do you limit your own screen time? Routine and rules. Following the same ones I set for the kids. Watch tv after they’ve gone to bed during the week, no tv when getting ready for work, no electronics at meals.

    What do you do to encourage alternative activities to screen time? Outside play, crafts, legos, nerf Wars. Anything active and engaging.
    What tools, apps, or technologies do you use to set screen time limits?

  2. Designated times were a big mess for us. Lots of arguments, lots of whining about nothing else in the house is interesting, particularly in the summer when his friends are at Day Camp and he’s home with me. So we agreed that I would make a list of things for him to do including things like some chores, science experiments, some fine motor, some gross motor, some errands, reading, trip to the pool, field trip, cooking, emotional regulation or social thinking activities and games, and he couldn’t touch anything that plugged in until the list was done. The list took anywhere from 3-7 hours to finish. And then he was free to spend his time how he wanted until dinner. It’s worked pretty well on weekends during the school year, too. And oftentimes his bff down the street would get home right when he was done and they’d go out and play. But I stuck to my word that his free time was his free time, and life got a lot easier.

  3. As the Director of a treatment facility for children with varying types of emotional/psychiatric challenges, including ADHD and/or Executive Functioning Deficits, I frequently use certain videogames not only as rewards for expected behaviors, but also, as tools to help develop and strengthen executive functions in children.

    Some children are able to earn 30 minutes of videogames at the end of the school day for outstanding behavior during the day. Others may be able to earn it in 10-minute “blocks” throughout the day as “brain breaks” after completing non-preferred academic material.

    Regardless, our protocol for easing the children from the excitement and stimulation of the game back to the more mundane schoolwork is always the same, as follows:

    1. There is always a visual timer next to the TV/game console that is set by an adult once playing starts. We prefer the “time-timers” which are easy to read and in a quick glance the child can see how much time (“red”) he has left.

    2. Once the timer reaches 5 minutes of game time left,
    the adult announces that to the child (“Five minutes
    left.”) This starts the cognitive process of “changing
    gears” for the child. http://www.sensorydirect.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/360×354/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/t/i/time-timer_with_acoustic_signal-1231003_1.jpg

    3. Similar prompts are announced at the 3, 2, and 1-minute intervals. At one-minute, the prompt is “in one minute, the system goes off.”

    4. When the timer beeps, the expectation is that the child turns the game and TV off, saving whatever needs to be saved. Sometimes, a prompt is needed to remind them that everything goes dark NOW.

    5. The children have already been told that for each minute they delay in turning the game off after the final prompt, it will result in one minute less time during the next play break (e.g., if they earn a 10-minute break later in the day, and it took them a minute to turn off the game this time, then the break is only nine minutes long, etc.

    6. More than a five-minute delay in turning the game off results in the loss of gaming privileges for the remainder of the day, or for the following day, depending on when the infraction occurs.

    All of the children are well aware of the protocol prior to playing, and the steps are outlined on posters near every videogame terminal. After following the protocol a few times, it is very rare that any child in the facility hesitates when prompted to turn the game off and return to work.

    Jeffrey Brusini, LMHC, Esq., is the founder and director of Mount Pleasant Academy, a pediatric treatment facility in Providence for children with psychiatric challenges. He is also a part-time psychometrist for South County Child & Family Consultants, has a private practice in Peace Dale that provides psychotherapy to children ages 3-10 and their families, and is the owner of Neurobehavioral Consultants, LLC. He is completing requirements for his doctorate in Behavioral Health, and is an occasional contributor to LearningWorks for Kids.

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