One of the biggest challenges I face in all my relationships can be summed up in one word "communication" or the lack thereof. I was raised as many men are, to suck it up don't show your feelings, never let them see you sweat. I am masterful at this, so my family says. I am mostly cool, calm, and collective when confronted with situations to the point that they say I can be cano tonic like, emotionless, "out there" is a term used from time to time. I guess part of it can be traced back to all the many John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies I watched growing up as a kid although I never uttered "go ahead punk make my day" to my kids. I do however have the occasional blow up and Nuclear meltdown which is not the ideal and recommended way to deal with matters of communication but hey I'm human.
One of the biggest breakthroughs I discovered was with my teen daughters. When we talk, I have a tendency to begin fixing the problem before they are even done finishing whatever they are talking about. "See Dad that is why I don't like talking to you, you never let me finish" So the first step was just sitting there and listening to them no matter how bad I wanted to jump in and fix the situation. The second was to not judge and reprimand them even though I did not like what I was hearing but to guide them thru those issues that come up. The third was just communicating in general. Our conversations generally would start with "how was school?" "alright" "what did you learn about today" " you know, stuff" "Well what kind of stuff" "Why are you asking me all these questions dad" and then it would go south from there. The only other occasions we would really communicate was on our way out to see my brother and sister in laws in Buellton Ca. It's a two hour drive from Santa Clarita and in between Ipod Jam sessions I would have these really meaningful conversations on a variety of different topics mostly boys and why we (parents) were put on earth to ruin all there fun. But we also discussed a lot of other topics and I learned more about my girls on these trips more than in all other ways combined I tried to relate and communicate with them. I enjoyed taking these road trips primarily for that very reason, But you can only visit family so often. What can I do in the meantime? I don't remember how but I am sure there was help from a higher source. I came across this game http://www.thecommunicationgame.com/index.htmland I was intrigued I had to get it what harm could it do? Who knows this could be just another tool to help me in this communication challenge Well the day came when I decided to break the game out and see what would happen. My wife was taking our youngest out of town and leaving me with my teen daughters over the weekend. I later found out my girls were horrified at the thought of being home with Dad "it's going to be sooo boring" Dad just sits at the computer all day he doesn't like going to the mall or shopping etc...." What are we going to do? You can't leave us here with him." My wife just laughed "have fun" as they both (my daughters)held on to her legs dragging as she walked to her car to leave" Don't leave us here.... (I'm exaggerating of course) but it was pretty close.
So the next morning I woke my girls up and said "get ready we are going to the mall"
"What? I really thought for a moment you said we were going to the mall" "We are" I said, "Are you feeling O.K.?" "Feeling great let's go" So we had been in the mall for a little over an hour when my middle daughter asked "Dad can we get something to eat?" "Sure how bout Red Robin" I said, O.K. but I have to go get this game from the car I wanted to play with you guys." No, that's okay Dad we can play another day" No I'll be right back" No really Dad let's play next time!! I later learned that my oldest was envisioning this whole board game in this restaurant and how uncool that would be and what if one of her friends saw her there playing this board game!, she was mortified, she wanted to die of embarrassment but when I showed up with these cards her reluctance dropped and she was willing to give it a shot. Well we played for over an hour and I cannot recall laughing so hard and really getting to know my daughters during that time. There is not much to learn to play this game, basically reading open ended question cards that deliberately require a thought out response. The game was a total hit and I would recommend it to any dad who is searching for ways to improve the communication between them and their teens. I cannot guarantee the same outcome but it is worth a shot to try. That day will be one of those moments I will treasure forever one of those rare moments I shined as a father. One of the greatest investments I made in my daughters and I relationship was that time together and the playing of this game. A deposit in that emotional bank account that needs more of my interest. My hope this year and every year is that we all take a moment to invest in communication. The investment is priceless.
All thoughts, opinions expressed are strictly my own and do not reflect those of the entities I represent.
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