Boomers can learn to disconnect, then teach their grandkids

How often these days do you unplug? We mean unplug from your electronic devices and just talk, or play, or spend quiet time the old-fashioned way. It’s not easy, even for baby boomers who grew up without the immediacy of cellphones and iPads. And our kids, let alone our grandkids? That’s a real challenge! Waynesville, North Carolina writer Carol Viau has found one way to pull it off. One way to unplug, unwind, and breathe.

Everyone seems addicted these days to their personal electronic devices.

Take a look at people on the street — adults, teens, and children are looking down at their phones.

Okay. So maybe they are playing Pokémon GO. But it’s a common sight to see people dining out with their cell phones sitting on the restaurant table. Even at family gatherings, children and teenagers are glued to the cell phone — not engaged in conversation, just transfixed with whatever is happening in texts or online.

Carol Viau with her husband, Paul, at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley, NC.

Carol Viau with her husband, Paul, at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley, NC.

We ought to try to disconnect — for just a while — and see if we can lose some stress and strengthen the family bond by talking with each another.

If you feel you can’t, try going someplace in nature where there isn’t great cell phone coverage. See what happens when you decompress from your busy life.

My husband’s and my own teenaged grandkids are prime examples of kids glued to their cell phones. During a recent visit, we took them to a place called the Cataloochee Guest Ranch above Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We weren’t sure how they would cope without cell phones.

RELAX, RECHARGE, DISCONNECT — See if you can lose some stress and strengthen the family bond by spending some time together without cell phones. Pictured, on center bench, are Serena, 16, Davin, 14, and (Grandpa) Paul Viau enjoying singing around the campfire with musician Jeanne Naber at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley, NC.

RELAX, RECHARGE, DISCONNECT — See if you can lose some stress and strengthen the family bond by spending some time together without cell phones. Pictured, on center bench, are Serena, 16, Davin, 14, and (Grandpa) Paul Viau enjoying singing around the campfire with musician Jeanne Naber at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley, NC.

Cell phone coverage there is limited, and when first-time guests arrive for a stay, general manager Mary Coker sees that they’re “a little nervous” about filling time and finding activities.

“If it’s their first time at the ranch, it takes them about 12 hours to disconnect,” Coker says. “They arrive exhausted, tense, and maybe wound up tight. Then they go to their cabin with a glass of wine and start to decompress.”

She sees the biggest transformation with families and children. The limited cell coverage helps families connect with each other.

FIRESIDE ALLURE — Guests at Cataloochee Ranch, above Maggie Valley, NC, enjoy relaxing fireside in the ranch’s great room after dinner. The limited cell phone coverage encourages conversation with people, not with electronics.

FIRESIDE ALLURE — Guests at Cataloochee Ranch, above Maggie Valley, NC, enjoy relaxing fireside in the ranch’s great room after dinner. The limited cell phone coverage encourages conversation with people, not with electronics.

“Family life is crazy,” Coker says. “It’s up to the parents or grandparents to set the ‘no electronics’ rule. At first the kids grimace, but if the parents can hold strong and get the kids to leave the electronics, it doesn’t take long for the for the kids to move on to other things.”

And what are children and families to do without electronics? Boomers will remember that back in the day, we used our imaginations and we played outdoors.

The same is true at the ranch, where children go exploring and use their imaginations. Children can build forts, go fishing, watch frogs and ducks in the pond, play horseshoes, ping pong, corn hole, and volleyball.

ENJOY NATURE — Cataloochee Ranch is situated at a mile-high elevation above Maggie Valley, NC. Cell phone coverage is limited, which encourages people to relax and decompress in the beauty of nature. Pictured is the horse pasture above the ranch house and cabins.

ENJOY NATURE — Cataloochee Ranch is situated at a mile-high elevation above Maggie Valley, NC. Cell phone coverage is limited, which encourages people to relax and decompress in the beauty of nature. Pictured is the horse pasture above the ranch house and cabins.

Then there are the family-style meals, which encourage real conversation. There is no doubt the family bond gets strengthened when people put down the cell phone and communicate with each other.

Renewed family bonding is a wonderful sight, like seeing a grandfather and grandchild playing chess or checkers on an old wooden chess board. This is the stuff memories are made of.

Try disconnecting for a while. Your mind deserves some downtime.

3 Comments

  1. That’s why I like visiting the National Parks and National Forests. No cell towers. All my phone is used for is a convenient camera; maybe note-taking and GPS if needed.

  2. That’s why I like visiting National Forests and National Parks. No cell towers. All my phone gets used for is pictures, notes and GPS duties.

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