As your kids grow, so too does the space between you. It’s a natural progression that can sometimes feel the furthest thing from ‘natural’. Throw divorce in the mix and you might as well buy a megaphone to be heard across the chasm that can emerge.
However, using social media to foster closeness with your kids offers you the opportunity to attempt to close this gap. If done right, you may get some semblance of communication that feels normal enough to make you breathe a sigh of relief.
What the Brains Say
A study by Brigham Young University regarding parent-child social media relations is being cited across the digital parenting universe. Reported in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, this study found that being connected to your child through social media can be a positive experience. It stated “higher pro-social behavior, lower relational aggression, and [lower] internalizing behavior” as a result. Lead author, Dr. Sarah M. Coyne, describes some aspects of the parent-child social media relationship:
Social networks give an intimate look at your teenager’s life.
Half of the teens in our study reported being on social network sites with their parents.
The more frequently parents used social media to interact with teens, the stronger the connection.
Keep it at the level that’s appropriate and respectful of what the teen wants.
Get on their Digital Plane
You may be texting and emailing like a pro but tween/teen social media is a whole other animal. In the case of a parental separation, you and your partner need to work out your differences offline. According to an America Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers study, over 80% of divorce lawyers use social media to make a case for or against a spouse. So instead of those petty social media posts, more attention needs to be paid to your kids online.
Start with a family night video game session to get the ball rolling, especially when your child may be struggling with emotions related to your divorce. Believe it or not, eliminating your “technophobia” comments and replacing them with positive observations and attempts, such as digital family interaction, can go a long way.
Keep it Simple
It’s no surprise that anger is a common response when kids experience the fallout of a divorce. Anger can manifest in the obvious ways such as challenging authority, but it can also present as depression, passive/aggressive behavior and even overachieving. Therefore, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to communicate with your child through social media you may see posts that make you want to intervene.
Aside from serious concerns, such as something alluding to them harming themselves, keep your posts simple. Don’t try to offer sugar coated puppy videos or syrupy sayings you found, simply let them know you are there and that you support them without acting too much like an online parent.
The last thing you want is to compound the situation by embarrassing them during such a difficult time. If you want to use something like Facebook to connect with friends and are posting things that are uncool in the eyes of your child, consider opening a separate account.
Getting On Board
Being given the key to your young child’s social media world may be easier than your teen’s. For many parents, simply getting more than two words out of their teen at any given time is a victory. Thankfully, Facebook is becoming less of a private friend-to-friend platform and more of a way to connect with family.
Therefore, your teen may be more open to accepting you as a friend. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and other apps can be less open to accepting adults, let alone parents. Simply ask if it’s okay and if they refuse, find other ways to stay involved such as showing interest in their video game, sending them cool YouTube links (having to do with what they enjoy) or starting an account together (if they don’t already have one).
Sometimes if your child trusts an aunt, uncle, cousin, or other “removed from the inner circle” family relation, they may accept them onto their more private connections. Sometimes parents will confer with these family members to get some helpful feedback regarding their postings. Do tread lightly if you decide to try this method because if your child finds out, it can backfire.
Using social media to foster closeness with your kids is almost becoming a mandatory practice. Sticking your head in the sand and sporting a “we never did this when we were kids” attitude just may keep them at more of a distance. If a divorce is in the picture, digitally connecting with them will only make them feel less alone and that’s the best gift you can give through such a trying time.
Tara Heath is a journalist and mother in California. She is passionate about positive parenting techniques and uses her writing to inform and encourage others on the subject.