Walks & Talks
Technological devices are the Jekyll and Hyde of our millennium. How wonderful they are for researching topics, sharing advances in professional fields, and keeping in touch with far-away family members. But wow are they terrible for encouraging social interaction, playing outdoors, or face-to-face conversations!
Many parents and grandparents today would say they are concerned about the amount of time (ital.)children spend in front a screen: be it a TV, a computer, tablet, or smartphone. However, the reality is that family therapists and pediatricians are beginning to get concerned about the amount of time (ital.)parents spend in front of a screen instead of interacting with their children.
“The most important thing you can do as a family is talk about what’s going on in your lives,” said Lisa Diamond-Graham, executive director at the Department of Human Services and Milford Youth and Family Services. “It’s the only way to know emotionally what is going on in your family. Email and text messages don’t allow for that.”
Parents often spend time on their smartphones while in the company of their children, according to a limited study conducted by Boston Medical Center published earlier this year. Of the 55 families observed during a meal in a fast food restaurant, 48 parents referred to their phones instead of engaging in conversation.
“In this busy world, we lose touch with the importance of communication within the family. Our family needs to be our safe haven and communicating with each other is the way to create that safe haven,” said Diamond-Graham.
Fortunately, Milford offers an abundance of free opportunities to encourage talking among families: the city’s walking paths, trails, and parks. Spending time walking and talking allows family members to share the day’s successes and struggles, building that safe haven Diamond-Graham mentioned.
“Milford’s Favorite Walks,” is a beautiful free publication from the Milford Recreation Dept. that includes more than 20 walk suggestions, maps, and commentary. The publication is available in limited print quantities and can readily be downloaded online at www.MilfordRecreation.com (click on the Documents Center on the left and then on Publication: Milford Favorite Walks).
“Walking is a good form of exercise for anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said Paul Piscitelli, director of recreation for the city. “Thirty minutes of walking can help improve your health and Milford has a lot of places to walk.” Which walk is Piscitelli’s favorite? “I like to walk from Fort Trumbull Beach to the Silver Sands boardwalk,” he said.
But what will you talk about with your family? Diamond-Graham suggests the following:
- Ask questions about their friends, favorite things to do, sports interests, or hobbies.
- Share about yourself. Tell your children about your favorite place in your hometown; what you did as a kid in your spare time; your favorite Christmas memory; or, your favorite childhood book.
- Ask one question that everyone has to answer. For example, what was your most embarrassing moment?
“It really doesn’t matter what you talk about, as long as you’re talking,” said Diamond-Graham. “Sometimes parents think their kids don’t care, but they do.” She also recommends using the time to talk about things that are worrying you as a parent, like what a teen might think about drug use, suicide, or relationships.
Take those conversation starters and explore! According to Steve Johnson, Milford’s open space and natural resource agent, there are more than 3,000 acres in Milford considered open space and used by the city and state, private owners, and land trusts for recreation, protection of wildlife, and potential future development. “What’s important is that people get out and enjoy this city; that they break from the distractions of electronics and explore their neighborhoods or one of the parks or walking trails here,” said Johnson.
To aid in that quest, Johnson has contributed his list of the top 5 walking paths and trails in all parts of the city.
- The Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at the mouth of the Housatonic River. “This area deserves a larger appreciation and awareness among residents. You can walk out to the Sound or enjoy the viewing deck in the marshes, among other things,” Johnson said. This site is listed as number one in the “Milford’s Favorite Walks” publication.
- The shoreline along the Walnut Beach/Silver Sands Boardwalk. “This is now a destination point for many,” Johnson said.
- The trails in Wilcox Park, located behind Milford Public Library, in the harbor area. There are maps and trails shown in the “Milford Favorite Walks” brochure.
- The trails in Eisenhower Park. “There are eight miles of trails here and special events like ‘The Owl Prowl’ are offered throughout the year,” said Johnson.
- The trails of Mondo Pond, located behind John F. Kennedy School, between West and Naugatuck Avenues. “This is the top spot to see fall’s migratory birds,” said Johnson.
Remember, whether you’re exploring the shore or just taking a walk around the block, the point is to use the opportunity to reconnect children (and parents) and get away from anything that needs to be plugged in.
Enjoy your time together.