- - Sunday, June 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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. Ouch. 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.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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