Let­ter of love can be a most pre­cious, enduring gift to your chil­dren

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - REBECCA HAGELIN Ouch. Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@re­bec­c­a­hagelin.com.

The emails are still com­ing in about the col­umn I wrote Fa­ther’s Day week dis­cussing the need for dads to write a love let­ter to each of their chil­dren. I guess I shouldn’t be sur­prised, be­cause the chap­ter of my book “30 Ways in 30 Days to Strengthen Your Fam­ily” that has gen­er­ated the most in­ter­est is the one en­cour­ag­ing par­ents to cre­ate a writ­ten trea­sure for their sons and daughters — a trea­sure they just might keep for the rest of their lives.

We of­ten for­get that what our chil­dren crave more than any­thing else — re­gard­less of their age — is our gen­uine love as ex­pressed in thought­ful words and en­cour­age­ment. It’s a strange para­dox: Even while many adults still long for words of af­fir­ma­tion that they didn’t re­ceive as chil­dren, they of­ten fail to take the ini­tia­tive to com­mu­ni­cate the life-giv­ing words of love their own chil­dren thirst for.

If you don’t think you are a gifted writer, please don’t let that stop you. Feel free to bor­row ideas from oth­ers, or to quote rel­e­vant songs, Scrip­ture verses, or po­etry. Go to a quiet place and jot down the first few thoughts that come to mind. Cre­ate mul­ti­ple drafts if you need to, and if it makes you more com­fort­able, ask your spouse or a trusted friend to re­view your let­ter and pro­vide feed­back.

So what should your let­ter in­clude? Here are a few thought-starters:

● A clear state­ment of your love. This doesn’t have to be po­etic, but it can be. How­ever you choose to state it, the “take­away” your kids need most is know­ing that you love them un­con­di­tion­ally.

● A strong com­mit­ment to be there for them re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances. Your chil­dren must never doubt the fact that as long as there is a sin­gle breath left in you, you will con­tinue to love them. The un­der­stand­ing of what true com­mit­ment en­tails is some­thing for­eign in to­day’s cul­ture. Your kids need the as­sur­ance that they can count on your love re­gard­less of the past mis­takes they have made and no mat­ter what they may do in the fu­ture.

● A warm mem­ory you have of their ear­lier years. If some­thing doesn’t come to mind right away, try de­scrib­ing how you felt the first time you held them in your arms, or when you kissed them good­bye on their first day of school.

● Ad­mis­sions of your mis­takes or fail­ings in your re­la­tion­ship with them. This one can hurt. But ad­mit­ting your mis­takes can help cre­ate a strong emo­tional bond be­tween you. Be­sides, if you’ve done some­thing that has hurt them, they al­ready know it. A let­ter is a great way to bring it out into the open and to ask for their for­give­ness. It also might help your child to open up and ask for­give­ness for their own mis­takes. It’s im­por­tant for us, as par­ents, to ad­mit that we know we aren’t per­fect and that we know we have a lot of work to do in or­der to be­come the par­ents we want to be.

● Pos­i­tive words about them as peo­ple. Tell them how much they are worth to God and to you — how you value their unique per­son­al­ity, tal­ents or sense of hu­mor. Be specific about a qual­ity they pos­sess that you ad­mire.

● Your vision state­ment for their fu­ture. This doesn’t mean telling them what ca­reer route you want them to take; rather, fo­cus on what kind of per­son you see them be­com­ing, and that you have no doubt that char­ac­ter traits such as hon­esty, gen­eros­ity, kind­ness and hard work will mark their lives.

Of this you can be sure: Your let­ter will have last­ing im­pact, and the tips above can be eas­ily adapted for a let­ter to adult chil­dren with whom you seek to strengthen your re­la­tion­ship.

I be­came keenly aware of how much the let­ters my hus­band and I gave our chil­dren still im­pact them when my now 25-year-old daugh­ter wrote the fol­low­ing re­flec­tion for my book:

“I have a box of mem­o­ra­bilia where I’ve kept many of the let­ters I’ve got­ten from both of my par­ents over the years. From time to time I go through it, and the words writ­ten to me years ago never fail to bring me to tears. In fact, they mean much more to me now than they did when I first got them. Proverbs 16:24 says, ‘Gracious words are like a hon­ey­comb, sweet­ness to the soul and health to the body’ (ESV). I can at­test to that truth. Words writ­ten in love are life giv­ing. And they only get sweeter with time.”

Start writ­ing that let­ter to­day. It just might end up be­ing the most im­por­tant note of your life.

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