Not long ago, I was driving home from a stressful day at work. There were so many things I didn't get done that day that weighed on my mind. I didn't want to be distracted by these thoughts while with my children, so I decided I'd try to check a few more items off my list.

I called one of the many people I needed to call back. Unfortunately, the call lasted longer than expected and I was still on the phone when I pulled into my driveway. My four- and seven-year-old daughters came running, excited to see me. As they bounced up and down and opened my door, I put my finger up with a smile to signal, "Give me one minute."

They quickly lost interest and went back to playing with their friends. So I thought I'd answer two or three more emails on my phone.

When I finally did walk through my front door, I was checking a text. I wish I could tell you this is where it ended. But, I checked Facebook, brought my phone to dinner and was physically present but emotionally absent most of the evening.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself (and your relationships)

When I began to write this article, I was ready to write about the impact screens have on our kids because too many parents give their children smartphones and tablets way too early.

Then I realized there is a bigger fish to fry. Parents need to put on the metaphorical oxygen masks first before they put them on their children.

The blind can't teach those who are still learning to see. This is all to say that we parents can't guide our children wisely in this digital age while we have our own problems with screen time.

This is especially dangerous for the parents who don't even think their phone is impacting their parenting.

Answer these questions to see the impact devices have on your parenting

I am old enough to remember life without smartphones, Facebook, YouTube and even the Internet. Occasionally I wonder: "What would my parenting look like without screens? Would I be a better listener? Would I more effectively solve the problems in my family?"

It seems we've come to accept this technological takeover as the norm. As a professor of family studies and as a parent, I am convinced far too many of us parents are unaware of what's happening.

Let's take a quick test. Be honest! These questions require serious, honest reflection.

1. How often do you use your phone to deal with feelings of stress, boredom or inadequacy? In other words, how often do you "phone-medicate"?

2. Do you know how often you look at your phone and is it intentional? In other words, do you personally screen

yourscreen time?"

3. Do you find being with your children less interesting and exciting than checking Facebook and seeing that red notification indicator? In other words, are you disconnecting from family for artificial connection?

4. Are people always put before machines at family dinner? In other words, did you know what your kids really want and need at dinner is your attention?

5. Have you ever noticed your parenting skills decrease as your phone usage increases? In other words, did you know your parenting will be more inconsistent and slapdash the more you use your phone?

Discover what the statistics show

A study that surveyed 1,600 people discovered the following information.

  • 70 percent of people surveyed said they check their smartphone within an hour of getting up.

  • 56 percent check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.

  • 48 percent check during the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • 51 percent check continuously during vacation.

  • 44 percent said they would experience "a great deal of anxiety" if they lost their phones and couldn't replace them for a week.

It's not hard to see we are wired to connect, but we are disconnecting wirelessly.

Reclaim your mind and your parenting with these 5 steps

I know you are a conscientious parent. But, if you struggle - like I do - to be smart with your smartphone, here are five ways to get your mind and heart back into your parenting.

_1. Be intentional_

Be the master and not the servant of your phone. Take time after the children have gone to bed and do an honest evaluation of how you can improve. Consider the special moments you may be missing.

_2. Set boundaries_

Make sure certain times are sacred. Eat together. Play together. Work together. If you can, put your phone on vibrate, turn it off or set it in another room.

_3. Be mindful_

Take time to meditate and clear your mind. Instead of using your phone as a coping mechanism, disconnect and learn healthier ways to deal with boredom and stress.

_4. Solve problems_

Once you have learned how to be mindful (it takes practice), the feelings of inadequacy and failure that often come with parenting can be put in their proper place. You'll be surprised how many parenting issues you can solve if you mindfully disconnect once a day.

_5. Be patient_

As you work to improve at being more present in parenting, be persistent but also patient with yourself. (A wonderful bonus is that as you follow these ideas, you will find yourself being more patient with your kids.)

You can do this!

The love you have for your children is stronger than anything you will experience on social media. Let that desire for real connection drive you.

This article was originally published on Family Good Things. It has been republished here with permission.

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