By Sonia Mendes
Ottawa author Natalia McPhedran helps parents navigate the minefield of social media — and how to teach children to use it responsibly — in her new book, Life with Kids: Empowering Our Children to be Ready for the Real World
Ottawa author Natalia McPhedran wants parents and kids to get talking about technology.
“I know several parents who take the ‘I have no idea what they’re up to in that techno world’ approach; ‘I wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to put electronic limits on what they do,’” McPhedran writes in her brand-new book, Life with Kids: Empowering Our Children to be Ready for the Real World.
McPhedran says while parents don’t need to be computer experts, it’s essential to be an “iParent,” since social media is now hugely popular with young kids.
That means parents must take an active interest in technology and learn the basics when it comes to “tweets, pheeds and snaps” — the new language of some of the prevalent smartphone apps.
“There’s no doubt that it’s hard for a parent to keep up with which mobile app ‘tweens or teens are using today on their smartphone,” says McPhedran.
“But the solution is not to hide in the dark and hope that technology just passes by, praying that you can steer your kids away from it.
“The solution is to set realistic limits and get acquainted with the stuff.”
McPhedran, a certified parent-child coach, says teaching children how to use technology responsibly is our responsibility as parents.
“I do not hide my head in the sand when it comes to educating myself on what my children are growing up with,” says McPhedran, who is mom to an almost 12-year-old daughter and a son, 10.
Through her book — and her down-to-earth, parenting workshops held around the city — McPhedran aims to help parents navigate the virtual minefield of today’s apps and social media alongside their children.
“When you think about it, we are only the second generation to parent through technology,” says McPhedran. She challenges parents to embrace technology rather than fear it — and accept that inevitably, there will be mistakes along the way.
“So many people are striving to be perfect parents — and for what?” she asks. “People need reassurance that there are others going through the same parenting challenges that they are.”
McPhedran is not shy to admit that her own family isn’t perfect. In fact, she’s quick to open up and candidly share some of their challenges — both through her book and her workshop — so others can learn to develop their own technology parenting strategies.
Parenting Times recently sat down with McPhedran to discuss her book, her parenting philosophy and her top tips on parenting through technology challenges.
Parenting Times (PT):How would you describe your parenting philosophy in a nutshell?
Natalia McPhedran (NM): I would say the three major components to my approach are:
•Use common sense — trust your gut and use logic; you don’t need a book to spell everything out for you;
•Try something different — don’t be afraid to change your parenting approach; if something is not working, then change it; and
•Allow your kids to experience negative emotions— they are building blocks to learning how to be resilient in the real world.
PT: What inspired you to become a parent-child coach?
NM: Before I got married and started my family, I was working in the banking industry.
At one point, our staff travelled to Toronto for a coaching workshop and we all felt so awesome after the training. I remember looking at the facilitator and thinking, “That’s what I want to do — I want to make other people feel awesome!”
Years later — after both my kids were in school — I still felt that the coaching field was really calling to me, so I completed my training through Erickson College, which is based in Vancouver.
PT: What sort of coaching have you done?
NM: My very first presentation was to Canada Post, about building trust in the workplace. But I really wanted to figure out a way to coach children, because that’s what I know and I’m really passionate about it.
So in 2012, I developed a presentation called “I’m SO Worth it!” which is designed to build assertive skills and resilience in today’s youth; I presented that to schools in the Ottawa area. Now, I offer parent-child coaching services to families as well.
PT: What inspired you to write Life with Kids: Empowering Our Children to be Ready for the Real World?
NM: Initially, I started a blog where I’d share some of my own parenting experiences. I would write about my kids’ situations and what they would go through — I like to share what worked so that parents would learn from something real, something that really happened.
I found that my posts would often get a reaction, and I began getting suggestions that I collect my stories and publish them in some way.
PT: You’re very ‘real’ — you’re not trying to position yourself as the perfect parent. How did you get to a point where you could open up and share so openly?
NM: I think that’s just who I am, because when I talk to my friends I often get a reaction.
They’ll say, “You just tell it like it is!” I figure, why hide it? If it’s going to make someone else laugh and make someone else feel like they’re not the only ones going through something, then that’s great. I think people need the reassurance and the relief that they’re not alone.
PT: Where can our readers find your book and your blog?
NM: Currently, my book is available at the Chapters store (South Keys location) and through www.amazon.ca. My blog is linked off my website at www.nataliacoachingyou.ca.