Most parents receive an assortment of pictures and cards containing colorful rainbows, hearts, and words of love--which are all the more precious because they record the backward letters and phonetic spelling of a child's learning years. These pictures and love notes fill your heart--as well as boxes, files, and a significant portion of your garage.
If you’re only giving your children cards and notes on “special” days and holidays, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity. Through the written word, parents can express love, encouragement, appreciation, concern, and understanding. It’s also an effective way to settle a misunderstanding, offer an apology, or express constructive criticism.
During the turbulent teen years, notes and letters can be a wonderful way to keep the lines of communication open and to gain a deeper understanding of your child. And while it’s easy to let a thoughtless or angry remark slip out of our mouths, writing notes requires us to be reflective as we carefully choose the words that will communicate a clear and thoughtful message.
Sometimes, older children and teens are more comfortable expressing their heartfelt emotions through the written, rather than the spoken word. My teenage daughter writes me notes with a depth of thoughtfulness and understanding that takes my breath away. The colorful cards of her childhood have been replaced by letters and email that express her growing maturity, love, and the agony and joy of young adulthood. Whether your child is three years old or 17--cards, notes, letters, email, and ecards are a great way to deliver a message of love and understanding.
Here are some ways to use the written word in your relationship with your child. Use notes to...
Children can’t be told too often that we love them or that we’re thankful to be their parent. In addition to telling your children that you love them, leave little love notes in visible places—taped to the bathroom mirror, by the front door, etc. "Sticky" notes are perfect for this purpose.
Give appreciation and thanks
When your child surprises you by straightening a room or helping with the dishes, write a quick thank-you note, and post it where he or she is sure to spot it.
Congratulate and celebrate
Young children love to receive mail. Occasionally, surprise your child by sending a congratulatory note in the mail. For example, “Congratulations! You finished your science project! Let’s celebrate with a scoop of ice cream!”
If you lose your temper, or make a mistake that affects your child, write an apology note. You will be teaching your children to accept responsibility for their actions and to make amends to anyone who is harmed by them.
Remind your child
While verbal reminders can feel like nagging, notes can clearly list the chores your child is expected to do.
When your child will be facing a particular challenge at school, tuck a note in his lunchbox or backpack saying, “You can do it,” or “I have faith in you!”
For older child or teens, use notes or emails to:
Gain understanding and stay close
Share a journal with your older child or teen. Pass it back and forth and keep it in a place where each of you can get to it and easily express your feelings. Or keep an email chain going between you.
Show concern and clear up misunderstandings
If your child becomes defensive and angry when you try to correct his behavior, notes or emails can be especially effective. A thoughtful note can clear up a misunderstanding and help to ensure that constructive criticism is taken in the spirit that it is intended.