There has always been a lot said and written about the challenges of communication between parents and children. Parents love to marvel at how smart their children become when they enter their twenties and realize maybe mom and dad weren't so off base, ignorant or just dumb. During the teen years we feel that the kids don't listen and the kids feel the parents don't understand. Life is different than when you grew up, Dad.
The big challenge I face in the long distance relationship with inconsistent communication is that we speak a lot with our thumbs. Between abbreviations, emoticons, incomplete sentences, and onomonpias, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Not only do we miss the opportunity to look into one another's eyes to see if the message is being received as it is intended, now we can't hear the inflection in our child's voice to see if we are on the same wave length. So, this leads to faulty encoding and decoding. Too often I have said things (remember we talk with our thumbs) that was misconstrued. A suggestion or piece of advice is viewed as criticism or lack of confidence. This leads to walls going up, quick termination of the conversation or an extended period of non-communication. Not that these things didn't happen through verbal discourse. Many times have I misspoke and created anger or hurt. However, it is much easier to tack back when you can utilize several senses to evaluate the situation.
Too often when we are limited to tactile communication we miss the signs. Eventually we learn that we temporarily alienated our loved one. Righting this situation by text is harder. We can apologize or try to explain what we meant. But long winded SMS's rarely have the same impact as direct oral dialog that might include screaming or crying, but can more easily conclude with a better understand of the message that was intended and that was heard. Certainly, it can't end in the much needed hug.
I am learning to select my keys carefully and hope that I string them together in an inoffensive manner. Because making up is so much harder by text I am a little more reluctant to offer help, especially if it is unsolicited. The risk of misinterpretation and the consequences that this brings is high. Sometimes it is easy to adopt the kids' communication style of short answers, rather than engage. This might be the cowardly approach, but preserving peace because there isn't the easy ability to reach an understanding might be the more pragmatic strategy.
I am not sure the faster, 24/7 connected communication world that we live in today enables us to support our flown the coop children better. I suppose it can, we just have to work a little harder, be a little bit more sensitive and know that we will probably make a few more mistakes. Maybe it will all be easier when we can regularly video skype from our cell phones.
I am sure our parents don't know how much harder we have it than they did supporting their children after they moved out. :-)