Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Divorced Fathers Use Tech To Connect

William Jackson, Contributor Living Education eMagazine

Fathering is a balance of love, negotiation, trust, setting high expectations and communication.What better way to stay connected than to text with your children. Fathers must be hyped to use technology to stay connected to their children with the integration of technology in their lives.

I’m a divorced father over 15 years; it has not been an easy journey. Communication is the key to keeping a relationship close from the challenges of divorce and separation. Military families have embraced technology because of long deployments and long distances by parents in the service of their country. So the use to texting and other Social Media tools is important. I was not always able to drive to see my kids that live over an hour away once their mother and I divorced.

My intent was to live as close as possible, but the responsibilities and realities of employment, finances and my personal / professional growth required me to move further away.

Travels and Distances

At one time I lived in Kingsland, Georgia before moving back to Jacksonville, so I would drive after work on Fridays over an hour to pick my kids up that live in Palatka, Florida and drive almost two (2) hours to bring them home with me. Sunday after church to take them home it was another two hours then back for me. The travel distance was a time for catching up and reflection on the weeks that passed between us. Allowing us the time to adjust to each other again. This travel time was sometimes tense because as many fathers know we have to wean through some of the drama of Baby Mama Drama. To dissolve the negative energy that may come with divorce. Talking is important when you have the F2F – Face Fathers must take advantage of all resources available to keep the lines of communication open and consistent.

In this age of many types of technology, communication should not stop. It can grow because of Texting, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media tools right through wireless devices like cell phones.

Tech Using Daddy: Connect via Text

Children and Teens have cell phones for safety, there is a connection that can be used. I purchased
my kids first cell phones when they were in Middle School. I got them pre-paid to teach them responsibility and time management using them. This also was not a financial burden to me and
taught us how to manage time, minutes and importantly money. Their mother at first did not agree
to them having a cell phone, but once I pointed out that it was for their safety and our mental stability
and not for me to spy on her, she was more agreeable. Especially when several kids were almost kidnapped in Palatka. What saved them was the fact that they called 911 for help and were not hurt.

Statistics and Data

Statistics show that 75% of teenagers prefer texting to actual voice. Speaking to my kids they agree.
They would rather text so they can multi-task and not let their friends know they are talking to their father. It was not keeping me secrete, but teens have a sense of pride and privacy even with their
friends. Ironically that is true, I have more conversations hrough texting than voice. We share pictures through Instagram, share where we are on Foursquare and interact on Facebook. This is a
win-win situation because we can “see” what each is doing. If I do not approve of their content I
can exert fatherly advice, not in a demeaning way, as guidance and reinforcement.

Cell Phones and Accidents

The power of cell phones did pay off when my son was in a car accident and he texted to ask what
he had to do. Overcoming my brief panic I texted was he ok and with a positive reply I called and
we went through what he should do. This interaction allowed him to contact law enforcement, take pictures for insurance purposes, and keep in contact with me as I drove to him. The ironic aspect to this is that he could not contact his mother by voice, since she was at work and did not text. Even though I was at work texting kept us connected. Children may not admit it, but when you tell them ”have a  great day,” “good luck on your tests,” ”buckle up when you drive” and even the occasional “I love you” they receive that better than hearing you tell them. The beauty is that texting is always there for them to see and reflect on later.

A New Language

Fathers, learn to “speak the language” of your children. The new language today is digital. If you
notice the dialogue is short, direct and to the point. Texting is a great opportunity to span distances
and keep lines of communication open. Allows for more intimate tool when sharing your personal expectations for behaviors of your children. Fathers should be involved and have their children
“teach” them how to use it as a better way to connect, provide advice and not allow distances and
time keep a separation between father and children. At the recent SSTESOL Sunshine State Teachers
of English Speakers of other Languages conference that Ipresented, our discussion on Social Media,
this conference supported teachers that teach foreign language students English.

Even foreign students use technology to span distances and communicate with their parents and friends. The Youtube video “Digital Natives” shows that youth have made the transition from Face to Face (F2F) communication to totally virtual. Fathers embrace the use of technology and don’t be scared to ask your kids to teach you how to use it and take advantage of all the capabilities, this allows for more bonding, personal and digital connections.

Don’t allow divorce, separation or other life challenges keeping you from communicating with your children. There is always a way, but he will has to be there to. Take it from my experience and integrate technology whenever you can to communicate with your children. It will payoff
as they mature. Dad will always be there even if it is just a Text, Facebook,
Tweet or Instagram away.

William Jackson
@wmjackson Twitter

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