Whether you work with dads one-on-one or in a group setting, you know that many of them face tough situations in trying to be more involved, responsible, and committed to their children.
A key to helping dads deal effectively with such situations, and move past them, is to help them make sound decisions. The challenge for many dads, however, is their emotions can cloud their decision making. That's why it's critical you have a toolbox of techniques--Jedi mind tricks, if you will--to help dads make sound decisions.
One such mind trick is called "self-distancing." Self-distancing is any practice that helps a person to take their emotions out of decision making in tough situations. Once a dad removes his emotions before he makes a decision, he can take the time necessary to make a thoughtful, objective decision. He becomes less reactive and more reflective, thus paving the way to making a better decision. Here are some examples of self-distancing you can use with dads to improve father involvement:
- Fly on the Wall: To use this classic self-distancing practice, ask a dad to imagine he's a fly on the wall observing the player(s) in this situation. (If only one player, the player is always the dad.) Ask him to describe what the player(s) is(are) doing, thinking, and feeling that's preventing him(them) from resolving the situation. Then ask him how he can resolve it.
- What You Would Tell a Friend: Ask a dad, "If a friend of yours faced the same situation, what would you tell him to do? What advice would you give him?"
- Think of a Similar Situation: Ask a dad to close his eyes and think of a similar situation that he resolved in the past. Tell him to describe the situation in detail and the steps he took to resolve it. Ask him whether he could use some or all of the same steps to resolve his current situation.
- Think in the Third Person: Let's say you're working with a dad named Randy. The mother of his child won't let him see his child. Tell Randy to think about his situation, or write about it, in the third person. For example, instead of saying "No matter what I do I can't get Jordan's mother to let me see Jordan," say, "No matter what Randy does he can't get Jordan's mother to let Randy see Jordan."
- Take a Step Back: Tell a dad to take a deep breath, stand up, relax and put his arms by his side, and, literally, take a long step backward. Then ask him to think about all of his options and choose the best one.
- Imagine the Future: Tell a dad to imagine he's a [week, month, year] into the future. (The timing depends on the nature of the situation and how long it might take to resolve it.) The situation is resolved. Ask him to lay out the steps he took to resolve the situation.
If you facilitate a fatherhood program, or work with dads in any group-based setting, check out the Effective Facilitation Certificate™. This affordable, online, on-demand training provides a lot of techniques you can add to your toolbox to help dads work through all kinds of tough situations. (Read this post to see how facilitators around the country have benefitted from this powerful training.)
What self-distancing practices do you use in your work with dads?
What other ways do you help dads work through tough situations?