The clinical psychologist and parenting expert shares her advice to help parents communicate better with their kids
Dr. Becky Kennedy isn't thrilled that some parents have taken to sharing their kids' lives online.
The clinical psychologist and parenting expert, named "The Millennial Parenting Whisperer" by Time Magazine, chatted exclusively with PEOPLE ahead of the release of her TED Talk, shedding light on her opinion about parents who overshare their kids on social media.
"I am not a fan of parents videoing, snapping photos of their kids and sharing those online for a number of reasons," Dr. Becky tells PEOPLE. "Number one, when we have our phone out and we're concerned about videoing or taking pictures of our kids, it's often, actually, a block to connection."
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"Because what our kids feel is, 'My parents are more interested in my appearance and performance than they are in me.' And connection is really based on spending time together, not being as oriented towards performance, feeling like you really matter to your parents. And kids really get that feeling most often when we have our cell phones and our devices shut away."
She continues, "When [kids] learn that they get the most praise or positive feelings from doing something that allows us to post it on Instagram, then what they really learn is, 'I am what I do and I'm most valued for the different ways I perform,' and I don't think any of us really want to build our kids' identity around those ideas."
For parents feeling guilty about the amount of pictures they've taken of their kids, Dr. Becky has a few tips to repair their relationships. "Just say to your kids here and there, 'Hey, let's spend some time with each other where I'm not videoing and taking pictures of you. I love you so much and my love for you doesn't have anything to do with how you look or what you're able to do. It's just about who you are.'"
Dr. Becky also suggests that when kids ask for their parents to take a picture, parents can offer a simple answer that switches the narrative from posting on social media to finding a connection amongst themselves. "You can just say, 'I'd love to watch. And no, I just really enjoy watching what you're doing. I don't need to take a picture to show anybody.' That's actually very, very heartening for kids to hear."
Oftentimes it's important to return to the root of the problem, which in this case is technology itself. "It is increasingly hard to connect with our kids in this digital world because our devices all really pull ourselves away from each other," she continues.
"What ends up happening is days and days go by, and this happens to me too, where I say, 'Wow, I really haven't spent much time with my kid without my phone in the middle of us. It's my kid, they see the back of my phone and then they see me."
"What I say to parents is say hi to the guilt. I think we all feel very guilty when we realize how often we're on our devices. But if we say hi to our guilt, it's less likely to overwhelm us," she says.
"I think we could all ask ourselves, 'What number of minutes can I spend with my kid today where neither of us have a device?' And it doesn't have to be so grand. You don't have to say 75 minutes. It really can be five."
And it's not the end of the world if parents make mistakes — Dr. Becky outlines a very simple, quick strategy that parents can employ when they need to make a situation right with their children.
"So repair in any relationship is the act of returning to a moment of disconnection, taking responsibility for your behavior, and acknowledging its real impact on another," she says.
"I'd like to differentiate repair from an apology because I think we all say, 'Oh I say sorry to someone,' or 'I said sorry to my kid after yelling.' While an apology often looks to shut a conversation down and move on quickly, those moments...that's very different from a repair, where a repair really looks to open a conversation up."
"I always like to say, every relationship we mess up. There's no perfect relationship," Dr. Becky tells PEOPLE. "And so we do yell, we do say the words we don't want to say, and that happens for every single person, me included as a parent."
"And what I really want parents to know is that when we kind of move our focus from the yelling event to the way the yelling event gets processed by our kid, everything changes. Because too often, we worry, 'I yelled at my kid. That messed them up forever.'"
Instead of simply acknowledging the event, the parenting expert says it's best to find a way to connect with the child. "What I can do and what is so healing to kids is actually going to connect to my kid saying, 'I'm sorry for yelling. It's never your fault when I yell.' You might say, 'I'm sure that felt scary,' and reaffirm our love for our kid and reaffirm that our kid is safe."
Dr. Becky expands upon her idea of repair in her new TED Talk, titled "The Single Most Important Parenting Strategy," available to stream now.
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