Craving Device-Free Attention

Craving Device-Free Attention

Technoconflicts in Families Today

By Martha Straus

July/August 2019

In the past few months, I’ve realized that nearly all my teenage girl clients are complaining, more or less full throttle, about their parents. Of course, that’s an age-old staple of therapy with adolescents—but this is different. These days, they’re urgently wanting (and in many cases, demanding) more undivided attention from their parents than they’re getting. These girls crave sustained, fortifying involvement with adults. That’s partly why so many of my teen clients feast on our time together in my office. During the therapy hour, I work hard to convey that there’s no place else I’d rather be. I’m all eyes, ears, and heart, focused exclusively on them. Really, though, who gets a whole hour of someone’s undiluted, device-free attention besides therapy clients these days?

Even so, my adolescent clients and I know that, as satisfying as this can feel in the moment, our relationship still needs to offer a bridge to better loving connection at home. My engagement is nourishing, sure, but nowhere as much as a parent’s adoring gaze and interest would be. I believe the work is first to help these girls discover and articulate what they’re missing from family life and then support them in sharing their thoughts and feelings with their parents.

Sometimes, when they’re still in mid-gripe about a parent, I might gently interrupt and reframe it because, underneath the angry words, I feel their yearning. I say things like, “It sounds like you really miss your mom,” or…

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1 Comment

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 8:39:22 AM | posted by CLAUDIA
I discussed this article with an experienced play therapist, Nikki Bricker, LCSW, RPT-S, who opined that in a decade or so we will see an upsurge of attachment disorders because of young mothers who are on their phone while feeding the baby, either by breast or bottle. We know that this time between mother and child is crucial to bonding, security, and attachment. She certainly may be right.