During our recent downsizing, I came face to face with our family odds and ends. I relentlessly paired down my children’s craft projects and school papers, but there was one category I just couldn’t bring myself to part with.
Precious memories of hours spent reading washed over me as I poured through box after box of my children’s once-favorite books. I remembered the special book I read to my daughter when she got sick, the first book my son read on his own.
My children, now young adults and packing their own possessions for college, heckled me as I anguished over getting rid of memory filled hard-backs. “Everything is online now, Mom. No one will even be reading books by the time we have kids”.
Quote: What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.Liz Carpenter
I beg to differ. Although my smarty-pants children may think they have evolved past the need for words on paper, I believe the value of the written word has only begun to increase. As we near the start of another summer, what better way to celebrate and mark progress than to write a special letter to your child.
Gather pen and paper and follow these simple guidelines for what to include and what to leave out. Oh, and you may also want to have a box of tissues handy…
Encourage your child
Start by listing all the accomplishments they can be proud of this year. Not just those that were recognized with an award or public praise, but the more private victories like conquering a fear, accepting a challenge, or sticking with something when quitting would have been easy.
Spotlight their strengths
Each of us has natural strengths that are honed and seasoned over time. Choose one or two to spotlight in your child, giving examples of how the gift was used in a specific situation.
If you need help thinking of something, check out this understood.org article, listing some common childhood strengths that may have surfaced when your young adult was in preschool, but still shine through today.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget that we aren’t raising puppets or copies of ourselves. Our kids do things differently than we would and face obstacles that weren’t even thought of when we were their age.
Write about an opinion or choice your child made that you might have struggle with. This is not the place to dig up past grievances! Focus on affirming your young adults efforts to become their own person and remind them that you are ultimately on their side.
Avoid these traps
Resist the urge to lecture or “impart wisdom”. Keep your letter short and sweet and have an objective third party read it over and offer opinions. As tempting as it may be, don’t use this format to recount your own struggles and growth over the year. Keep the focus on your young adult.
I hope you can feel my virtual hug coming your way as you take the time and energy to give this incredible gift to your child. Let’s face it; you may not get an actual hug from your kid. Don’t expect them to hold the envelope to their chest with tears streaming down their face, mouthing, “I love you.” They are, in fact, still kids.
Writing a heart felt and well-thought letter to your child, one that uses a pen and paper, is an even more precious gift in this digital age. They may not seem to appreciate it, but I bet you won’t find it in the trash. Most likely they will hide it away somewhere you don’t know about.
Your sacrifice of time and convenience will remind you, not just how far they’ve come, but how much you’ve grown as well. This action can lay the groundwork for future communication, trust, and encouragement that, like those childhood storybooks, will grow even more precious over time.