Ask Alli by Allison Heidorn My 12-year-old son would play video games all day if I let him! When I ask him to shut off the game and do another activity he argues and becomes very upset. How can I get my video addicted son to find another interest and not spend all of his free time playing games? First off, you are not alone. Millions of young people LOVE to play video games and spend significant time doing so. Video games and other electronic media seem to transfix our kids, so much so that at times they are simply disconnected. The simple answer would be to tell you as the parent to take control of your parental authority and just say no! I can tell you that will lead you deeper into a power struggle between you and your child and will leave you in much the same space you are right now. Instead, what I would suggest is an inside out technique. What I am talking about is helping youth identify their “spark”. “Spark” is the part of each of us that generates passion and purpose in our lives. It is a deep sense of meaning and purpose, a gift that has been entrusted to just you. Furthermore, a spark must be something that makes a positive contribution to the world. It might be writing, science, learning other languages, helping others, being an artist, being a leader or making music. Our job as adults is to learn the spark of our own children and all the children who surround us and pull it out, provide opportunities to participate in the spark activity. I am confident that if you take the time to identify your child’s spark, nurture it and provide opportunities, your child will engulf themselves in it. What you may be thinking is, what if video games are what my child says is their “spark”? I challenge you to dig deeper! Ask them what it is about video games that makes them love them so much…hand-eye coordination, competition, or strategy. Whatever the skill may be, align your child with other activities that use that skill. Hopefully, your child will lose interest in video games and really find and live their passion in this world! What an amazing opportunity you have to light a fire under your child. Remember a fire begins with just one “spark”! 60 WINTER 2011 Between work, the kids, my extended family, friends and all of life’s ups and downs; I have such little time to spend with my kids. How can I connect with them at a deep level if our time is always running from one thing to the next? First off, it sounds like you need to catch your breath! Inhale, Exhale! As a busy working Mom, I can relate to what you’re saying! The bad news is that as your kids get older, you get busier! The good news is that it is easy to connect with your child, even when life gets crazy! Search Institute, a non-profit organization that offers leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote positive youth development, came up with a guide to help called “Finding your way, 30 seconds at a time”. What the guide says is that to connect with youth keep three important principals in mind! First, one small effort does matter. Little things such as making eye contact, expressing gratitude, and simply listening without judging are a really big deal. You never know which encounter may change their life. Second, small acts add up. Small efforts over time become familiar patterns, and show them they belong, they matter and are valuable. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years” –Simone Signoret Finally, if you breathe, you are on the team. It does not matter who you are, what you do for work, how much money you make or where you live, you can connect.