Living on purpose: Connecting with your kids
Vail CO, Colorado
Connor began our session by describing the softball game he had watched his 13-year-old daughter play the night before. Play by play he told me how Britney had hit a triple and made a double play. He was beaming from spending time with his girls.
Connor has three daughters ” one pre-teen and two teenagers.
“It sounds like you are really close to your girls,” I said.
“Since my divorce three years ago, they stay with their mother most often and only stay with me every-other weekend. Even then they don’t always come over,” he said.
“You sound disappointed,” I said.
“I love my kids, but as they are growing up, they are more concerned with their own lives,” he said. “I sometimes get mad when they don’t call and then I retaliate by not calling them, either. Then I realize that I am playing a childish game … and I am the one that is losing.”
“That’s a huge realization. How do you finally connect?” I asked.
“I am most effective when I am real with them. I feel as though my kids see me as this indestructible parental figure that doesn’t have any real feelings. When I do open up, they are usually pretty receptive.”
“Tell me about the time you have with the girls,” I said.
“Typically they come over every-other weekend, but even when they are there, it doesn’t seem like they are really with me. For example, when my oldest, Michele, comes over, it seems that her main concern is to text her friends. She sits on the couch punching buttons,” he said, demonstrating someone texting. “And then (she) sets her phone down, waiting for a response. If I try to talk to her, I feel I am interrupting a conversation she’s having with one of her friends.”
“You sound irritated. Have you talked to her about it?” I asked.
“I’m afraid it would make her mad and I’m already having problems getting the girls to spend time with me,” he said. “If I say something, it will just push an even bigger wedge in between us. My choice seems to be to live with it the way it is or give up time with her all together.”
“Neither choice sounds appealing. Can you come up with at least one more option?” I said.
“If I could just get her to communicate with me. She obviously doesn’t have any problems connecting with her friends,” he said.
He thought for a moment.
“I wonder if I were to text to her? To me texting seems like a waste of time. I prefer to communicate in person, but she’s really into texting. Maybe if I talk to her in the way she likes to communicate, I can shrink the wedge between us.”
“What will you tell her in your first text?” I asked.
“I will tell her that I want to be a part of her world and am not sure how to do that. I’d let her know that it’s important to me to be close to her and want her ideas on how we can make that happen,” he paused. “I should probably take a class so I know how to text all that in 25 characters or less,” he joked.
He continued, “It’s not ideal, but it is the way she likes to communicate. I guess if you can’t beat ’em … join ’em,” he said, smiling.
When I asked him how I would know that he had completed this step, he said, “I’ll let you know by a week from Wednesday that it is completed … by texting it to you.”
If you sense a communication gap between you and someone you’d like to be closer to, observe how you prefer to communicate and how the other person prefers to communicate. If it is different, experiment with how it would feel to meet them where they are. For example, if he likes to e-mail, e-mail him to open the lines of communication. If she communicates via instant messaging, by phone, letter, or through face-to-face conversations, step outside of your comfort zone to meet her where she is most comfortable. Although you are out of your comfort zone, you have made the effort to meet the other person in his or her comfort zone. That alone can send a huge message for how important it is for you to communicate.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.