How to create “safe” spaces that aren’t screen time

Safe screen free space for ADHD

In a conversation with my husband about limiting screen time for Little Bit, my husband brought up his experience. As a child, and even as an adult, video games was his ”safe space” to succeed without judgement. In his childhood, where his ADHD wasn’t understood, there was often a feeling of failure or disappointing others. He learned that video games were a judgement free zone for him, that he could predict the outcomes. However, I had noticed increased screen time to correlate with difficult behavior with Little Bit. I needed to learn how to create “safe” spaces that aren’t screen time.

Screen free ”safe spaces” are important with ADHD

Is screen time really that bad?

During COVID, I really appreciated some things becoming available virtually. Particularly for ADHD treatment, it eliminated some of the barriers to treatment for my husband which have led to many missed appointments over the years. Working virtually from home has been beneficial for many. However, this article addresses some of the downsides of the increased screen time, particularly virtual school for kids.

In our particular household, I began to notice a link between an increase in angry outbursts after there had been an increase in screen time. Check back soon for a new post about why transitions are difficult with ADHD, and how to make them easier. After increased screen time with Little Bit, I noticed transitions being particularly difficult. Some of this seems to be due to the instant gratification that screens can provide. Wether a game, or watching a show, it often provides that ”feel good” feeling. Transitioning from that to necessary life tasks such as school work or chores is almost impossible.

The hyper focus that the screen time encourages can make even transitions to desired activities difficult. One particular memory was at a gymnastics competition. I was frequently guilty of handing Little Bit the iPad to keep her occupied for the 4 hour competition sessions. On one occasion, another parent, who was also her beloved coach came over to socialize during the competition. Little Bit barely acknowledged her coach while she was present. Her coach, also a mother of an ADHD kiddo, tried to engage with her the best she could.

However, once the iPad was put away, her coach was no longer present, and a meltdown ensued. She was upset about not getting to spend time with her coach who had understandably moved on. At that point her behavior became irrational and just plain mean to her family around her. This occurrence, among others, made it clear that we needed to be cautious about the amount of screen time.

What about a safe, judgement free space?

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I am absolutely an advocate for creating a safe space. Particularly with ADHD, the brain may have to work harder to conform to the neurotypical world. Having safe spaces and activities at home is vital. Read my post about the pros (and cons) of having a dog as a judgement free companion in an ADHD home. Finding activities of interest that can allow the brain to decompress are vital. Read about why gymnastics works as an excellent outlet for our family.

Regardless of the activities chosen, having outlets for decompression are important. Building in opportunities for feeling successful are also crucial. Check out how our favorite responsibility chart accomplishes this in my post here. And for added built in success read here how we incorporated bonus stars when life gets off track.

Use multilayer strategies to create safe spaces that aren’t screen time

Over the years I have acquired quite the list of tools to help teach Little Bit long term success. Providing sensory tools for an outlet can help decrease destructive or distracting behaviors. We use this gratitude journal to build emotional intelligence and cultivate gratitude. Little Bit (and the rest of the family) is learning how to ground themselves with their senses when emotions get out of control. The more tools they have to regulate themselves, the safer their space will feel.

Make sure to check back next week for some of our favorite ”safe” activities. These may give some ideas for great alternatives to screen time. And for a preview of some of those, check out my timely post on sugar free Easter Basket ideas.

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As an Amazon affiliate I make a small commission for purchases through my links at no additional cost to you.  I only recommend products I use and love, and appreciate the support to search out additional resources for my readers.  

The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.

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