So, Father’s Day is around the corner and after over a year of being shut in with my kids, I have to admit I haven’t always felt like the best dad. Like a lot of other fathers I know, I have also had time to reflect on what kind of a parent I do, and do not, want to be. Since I am a communication professional, I have spent much of the past year thinking about what and how I want to communicate with my children and how I can help other parents, especially dads, communicate better with their kids.
As a man and a Mexican man, I wouldn’t say that I was exactly taught to share my feelings from a young age. I wasn’t taught to be emotive, although both of my parents were very affectionate with me, that doesn’t mean we talked about fears or big feelings.
First, I want to put the disclaimer out there and remind readers that I am not a psychologist and would never pretend to be one. If you feel like you need to talk to a mental health expert, then I would highly recommend doing that. I can only speak from a messaging perspective on what will resonate with your kids and will probably work better in terms of how you communicate with them.
The rules to better father-child communication
The first rule that I came up with might be obvious but it’s difficult in today’s world: put your cell phone away! That is number one. And if you need to get on your phone or computer then explain it to them: tell them what you are doing and why. Be clear about the need for you to do it and then put it away again. Maybe you can set a rule with a time limit because everyone needs to be on the phone sometimes but if you don’t surf the internet then you can get what you need to get done faster. This is especially true for weekends.
For kids in the 70’s we had parents who were partying all the time and that was traumatic. Our kids now have an even bigger challenge because we are on the cellphone all the time and they are neglected because we are phubbing them day and night; it’s super addictive. And like any other addiction it consumes you. Your kids feel your absence even when you’re right there.
Rule number two is to never underestimate their intelligence and the complexity of the messages they can understand. Even if they are little kids, treat them like a person – they can handle it.
Rule number three is to always express to them how much you love them. That is what creates a good person in life.
Rule number four is to get down on their eye level. Establish loving eye contact and your kids will learn how to do the same and will communicate better with other people.
Rule five is to keep in mind your role: which is as a parent. Generally, we delegate so much to mothers and the dads take the situation as an excuse not to do as much as they can. I think both children and fathers lose out like this. Do as much as you can as a dad. If you have any extra time, it would be a great idea to spend it on your kids: teach them new things. Just try to do a little more.
Rule six is to leave them alone. By that I mean let them figure things out for themselves, get bored, daydream, etc. Don’t be on top of the all the time – it’s not healthy for anyone.
And my final recommendation is for dads who aren’t there every day: find a way to be present. Be constant about the time you spend with your kids – it is what they will remember you for.
Fernando Gonzalez Climent is the co-founder and partner of one of Mexico’s top public relations firms, Cuadrante Strategy & Communications, and the father of two-year-old Maria and six-year-old Fernandito. He likes to listen to music with them and have amazing meals with his kids.
You can follow him on Twitter at @fgcliment and on his profile on Linkedin.