Strong bonds weekend– What is she trying to say?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Melanie Casineau, Photojournalist
  • 104th Fighter Wing
ROFL! LOL! WTF! I have no idea what those acronyms mean and my teenage daughter is texting it to me on her cell phone! What am I supposed to do now? I thought that it was going to be hard raising my daughter but then came technology and all the hidden communication that came with it. I found out quickly that ROFL was not "Rotten old fruit loops", LOL was not "Lots of Love" and WTF was not "Wow, that's fantastic!"

On March 28, 2014, members of the Chaplains office at the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard base, Westfield Mass., held a Strong Bonds family workshop for two nights and three days at the Sheraton hotel in Springfield, Mass. Eleven families attended with children ages six through 14. There was free childcare for children under the age of six. "The best part of the weekend was getting away from my baby brother for a while so I could talk to my parents without being interrupted," said Brandon Kowal who is 10 and has a three year old brother. This was the same feeling from many of the other children who had younger siblings there as well.

The base Chaplains office has hosted "Strong Bonds" family weekends in the past, but something told me that there was only one way I would get my family there, I had to bribe them.

I found out that the next one was going to be held at a very nice hotel, lots of good food that was all included, a movie night, and there was a pool. They all agreed to go.
Topics for the weekend were parents and children in healthy families, adult relationships in healthy families, and passing on values in healthy families. The schedule was completely interactive, from activities that were all about the kids, to being all about the parents. Families were asked to do numerous projects to help build skills that support the healthy family. Families were also asked to mix together into other families to get new ideas from each other.

Some ideas shared included Tech. Sgt Jerry Paquette's family on having technology free Tuesdays. This is a way their family uses to bring them together once a week without all the distractions of technology. Norton Family, an application used on computers to monitor what children do on the internet was as also shared. Having a weekly family meeting was an idea presented that most families said they would start immediately.

Lt. Col. Stephen Misarski said on the topic of children, "children learn from watching and imitating. They follow more of what you do than what you say. More people are visual learners." He also talked about how kids like routines and rituals, and they have expectations. "Kids need the verbal and visual feedback so they know you are listening to them. They need you to repeat back what they are saying. They don't necessarily need your advice, they just want to be able to express themselves, and know you are listening to them," said Misarski.

There were many reasons why families attended. Master Sgt. Robert Stec and his wife were interested in going so they could learn better ways to do things within their family. "Communication is huge and something we could improve on, and felt that this conference could help with that." Tech. Sgt. Judy Flores said, "I need to work with my teenage son and work on building a stronger family. I need to be more in charge and know that when I make the rules, I need to stick with the rules."

At the end of weekend, everyone had met new military families and made new friends. The kids even asked to come back for another weekend! Everyone walked away with new ideas of how to improve their relationships in their families and have a better understanding of what each other is saying. However, when my daughter texts BFFAEWE, I will still have to ask what it means. At least I will know that she is expressing herself, and that I can be ok with that because she knows I am listening to her.