The other day my son and I were having one of our more ‘profound’ conversations about being positive in life. He couldn’t remember anything that he’d done that was positive, and he was feeling a little upset. As he stared up at me with expectant eyes, I realized my answer here was going to be important. He’s a very positive kid and I wanted to let him know it. I blurted out the first few things that came to mind and he seemed satisfied enough.
But that night, as I thought about it, I felt like I could have done better. So I sat down at the computer and I wrote him a letter.
I started by saying, “Son, this morning you asked me what you have done that is positive in life. Here is my answer…” And I went through everything I could think of, because I had time that night to craft some carefully worded responses. Responses that were true. Things he had really done and said that were positive. Real answers that I knew would mean something to him.
The next morning, I laid the letter on the kitchen table and when he came down to breakfast I said, “That’s for you.” He took it to the couch and started to read. I saw a smile break across his face and I almost melted. When he was done, he was positively glowing and had tears in his eyes. He said, “Thank you, dad,” and hugged me.
For a moment, I felt like the best dad in the world.
I’m far from it, but I’m learning. And what I’ve learned is that writing a love letter to your son or daughter is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have as a parent. If you haven’t done it, and want to give it a shot this Valentine’s Day, here are 10 tips you might find useful.
1. Type It Out. By using the keyboard, you can really let your thoughts pour out without overthinking what you are writing. Then you can cut back and delete things later. If you want, you can even transcribe your letter by hand afterwards on to stationary, but it’s not necessary. It’s the content that matters most.
2. Keep Your Tone In Line With Your Child’s Age. If they are 6, write like a 6 year old. If they are 10, write like a 10 year old. I started my letter by being very direct, “Son, this morning you asked me what you do that’s positive. There are many things you do that are positive. First of all, you are an incredible big brother to your sister. In fact, you may be the best big brother I have ever seen.”
3. Talk About Compliments Other People Have Given Them. Kids love hearing about “secret” conversations between adults. I went on to tell my son, “Other grown-ups have told me what a great kid they think you are.” It’s one thing to hear a compliment from you. It’s something entirely different and uniquely powerful to hear something positive that another grown-up has said.
4. Reference Their Good Behavior. Talk about a few recent memories where you observed them doing behavior that made you proud. A time you saw them share something on the playground or use polite manners at a restaurant or anything at all that has made you feel like your parenting has paid off. Bonus: by calling attention to it, they are very likely to repeat the good behavior in the future.
5. Praise Their Schoolwork. Kids have one job: school. And like anyone else, they want to know that they’re doing their job well. Mention some of these positive attributes that were pointed out to you by their teachers during conferences and let them know that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
6. Talk About The Future. Kids love thinking about what’s coming up in life and your letter should get them excited for the future. Where they are going? What will the coming year bring? Whether it’s a vacation coming up that you’re excited to share with them or an upcoming right of passage like a birthday party or finishing a grade, mention it. Get them excited about what’s around the corner.
7. Remember Loved Ones. If your child has a grandparent who has passed on, it can be very poignant to reference the deceased relative. You can talk about how that grandparent is looking down and how proud they must be of your child. Connecting the generations can be powerful as can reinforcing the concept of Heaven or whatever type of spiritual doctrine you believe in. In our case, my mother recently passed away and my son had a very close relationship with her. I told him, “Meme loved you so very much and I know she is looking down on you right now and smiling.”
8. Reference Something Amazing They’ve Accomplished. Getting a base hit in little league. Performing in the ballet recital. Winning a chess match. Describe the feeling from your point of view to give it a visceral, cinematic feel, “I sat there in the crowd watching you….”
9. Talk About What You Do Together. One of the main points of writing the letter is to let your child know exactly how much they mean to you. And one of the best ways to do this is to recall some special activities the two of you do together. It can be anything and everything from wrestling on the bed, playing video games, family movie night, catch in the backyard, silly dance party, hide and seek. Just take a minute and be real. Focus on the things you do with your kids that really bring you joy, and write about them.
10. End With A Bang. Your final paragraph should read like a fireworks grand finale of praise, love, silliness and compliments. Just go off. Tell them a hundred times that you love them to the moon and back. “You are simply the most amazing child in the whole world and you make every single day of my life super special!” Attack them with love, until their cheeks want to burst from smiling so much.
Conclusion. Writing a love letter to your child is one of the most profound things you can do as a parent. Not only will you make their hearts swell with happiness as they sit and read your words, but in crafting the letter, you might discover feelings about your children you didn’t quite realize were there. Or maybe you knew you had them, but didn’t realize how deep those emotions were. If you’re feeling tired, or down, or that taking care of your kids is just too stressful sometimes, take a few minutes and write them a letter. Reflecting on the joy your children bring you and putting it into words is a worthwhile experience, for both you and your kids.