We all know what it feels like to post something on social media and watch the “likes” spill in. It’s a great feeling, right? We have a need to connect and to be accepted by our family and our peers. We post a cute picture of our adorable kid and then we wait for someone to accept that yes, in fact, they are adorable. It can often even be more than a check-in about how cute our kid is and become a check-in about how we are doing as parents. Let’s be honest, sometimes it lets us know if we are doing okay as people. I get it. We need to connect and we are doing the best we can in this world of social media and lack of physical connection with our friends. It’s much easier to look through someone’s account than it is to meet up for a lunch date. Who has time for a lunch date anymore? I think that social media serves a purpose and it can be connecting, but I think that at times it can also pull us further away from connection.

The other day I was working from a coffee shop and I watched as a woman and her very young child sat down outside at a table. The mother had her latte and her child had his apple juice. I have a thing for toddlers (I think it’s the chubby cheeks and the waddle) so I of course was fixated on this little cutie and the potential for an adorable mommy/son breakfast date. What happened instead was really sad to me. The mother and child didn’t speak or have any interaction. Instead, she would occasionally take out her phone and take a picture of herself and her son together. I would then see her excitedly posting on her social media. I  could just imagine what she was posting, “A beautiful day for a coffee date with my little man!” In reality there was no date because there was no interaction. The day was as beautiful as her intentions were as she left the house that day, but the opportunity was lost.

Now, I remember what it was like to have child that age and I completely sympathize with this mother. She probably spends all day with this kid and all she wants is a coffee break once in awhile! I feel her. It did however, bring up for me the feeling that we are getting more and more disconnected when we try to create a moment with our kids instead of being in that moment with them. Talking to our kids and engaging them in play is what creates language as well as social and emotional development. We feel connected and they feel loved. Yes, our phones can send us love in the form of a photo and a heart symbol, but I doubt it’s going to make a lasting impact on who we are and who are children become.

What would it be like to worry more about the quality of our relationships than what our relationships look like to others on social media? I think we all can take more breaks and find more opportunities to play and be silly with the ones we love.  Our bodies and our brains have not forgotten what true connection feels like! We have everything we need within us to be there for our kids and to be present within our own lives, we just have to remember to be intentional in our daily lives.

Jessica Kilpatrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Director of Training and Program Development at STARRY. Jessica attended the University of Texas in Austin and received her Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development and Texas State University to earn her Masters Degree in Professional Counseling. She has over 18 years of experience in working with children. Jessica works with our Foster Care and Counseling Programs to implement trauma-informed care. Jessica is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention Educator.®