TELLING YOUR CHILDREN IN WRITING WHAT THEY MEAN TO YOU
By Bill Zimmerman, Creator, MakeBeliefsComix.com
Try to think ahead, say 25 years from now. Your child has grown up and is living on her own. It's a rainy, lonely Saturday for her and, to get a moral lift, she's rummaging through a chest of drawers looking for her beloved "treasure box."
Wouldn't you be happy to know that inside this box are the little notes, now yellowing, that you once wrote to her when she was a little girl, in which you said all the things that were in your heart for your child? As a child, she thought enough of these notes to save them because they were the dearest things in her life and now, 25 years later, she wants to look at them to remember how loved she was.
I know this feeling from my own experience. My own father was not one to write many words on paper – the only ones I ever received from him are those he penned in my elementary school autograph book. He wrote: "I wish I was gifted with words good enough to tell you what a swell boy I have for a son. God Bless You. Love, Daddy."
Only 26 words. But they stayed with me all my life and I look at them from time to time when I need some words of assurance. Your son or daughter, no matter how old, will treasure and hang on to your words, too, even if you have only 26 of them within you to offer. Your child needs to hear good words from you as he or she makes the journey through life. Believe me, you have good stuff in you to share with your children that they need to hear, if only you’ll take a few moments to write.
You can place your own loving notes in your children's lunch boxes or knapsacks before they leave for school, to be opened later in the day. In today's fast-paced life, lunch box letters allow you a personalized way of staying in touch with your child, even as you are separated from each other during the day – you go to work, your child to school. They are also lifelines to stay connected with your children as you compete against television and computer games for their attention. A fine way, too, to instruct your children on your family's values.
WRITING NOTES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
And notes to children can also be given at other times. You can place them under the pillow of a sleeping child to be discovered when she wakes up, slip them under a bedroom door, give to celebrate a special occasion, such as a birthday, or even post them on the refrigerator door. They can also be written and mailed by grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents.
Writing such notes also communicates to your children your own love of writing and reading; the words in such letters convey so much fun and love – what child wouldn’t want to read them.
I first started writing such notes to my daughter when she began losing her baby teeth. Using shaky, squiggly script, I would write notes to her from the Tooth Fairy each time she lost a tooth. In these letters, the Tooth Fairy would marvel at how quickly she was growing up and thank her for the beautiful tooth that she would add to her baby tooth collection. The Tooth Fairy would also comment on some new achievement by my daughter, such as her learning how to ride a bicycle or to read.
In time, as my daughter got older and went to summer camp, I would write her notes in the "voice" and "paw-writing" of her beloved dog, Dynamite. They would be filled with humor and fun. I loved writing in the mindset of a four-footed animal and I knew the letters would make my daughter giggle. She would write to me from camp, and even years later from college, telling me she longed for more letters from Dynamite.
You can start writing simple notes to your child as soon as he or she starts making out words in a favorite book. Even if your child can read only a few words, they'll recognize their name and the word Mom or Dad or Grandpa, and you can help them read the rest. Notes are a great motivator for a child learning to read.
MAKING SURE THAT SOME NOTES ARE JUST PLAIN FUN
There are all kinds of subjects you can write about to your children. Some can be simple expressions of love – "Just a note to tell you how much I love you. I think of you often during the day." (To have even more fun, you can write the letter in a secret code – I sometimes use Morse code – or even by spelling words backwards or in mirror-writing.)
Some can be notes of encouragement – "I know you will do your best today, as you do each day in your life. Keep that happy smile on your face."
Some can be just for fun such as this note from the family cat – "Can't wait for you to come home today from day school (meow) and play with me. It's pretty boring when you're not here. Nobody rubs my tummy the way you do (purr)."
Some can be interactive:
"Check the box you like!"
We've both been so busy – you with school, me with work. Let's make some time together to have fun. Please check the one thing you want to do the most:
▢ Go out for pizza
▢ Go to a movie
▢ Go to the beach
▢ Take a walk together
▢ Your suggestion? __________________________
How about a simple thank-you note, such as: "Thanks for giving the dog a good brushing yesterday. She really enjoyed it. She says, 'Thank you, have a good day, arf, arf, arf.'"
And when you're going to be on a trip away from your child for a few days, remember to take long postcards with you on which you can write about your trip and mail them to your youngster at home. Don't you still remember how happy you were as a child to receive such a postcard or greeting card from someone you loved? (Email is fine, too, but nothing beats having a hand-written letter.)
Write your notes on colorful paper to enhance the gift experience. Perhaps even write a riddle in the corner, such as: What does a ghost read every day? (Answer: His horrorscope). Maybe draw a picture on the note or paste a pretty picture you cut out of a magazine. Buy some little bags of tiny cutout heart shapes or star shapes made of glittery tinsel, and sprinkle them into a folded letter so that when you child opens the letter, a little magic pours out along with your loving words.
And for younger kids who are not yet reading, draw a simple picture with one or two words (or the names of family members) they recognize. The idea behind such notes is to let kids know you're thinking of them, so whatever you include in the letter, no matter how brief, is just right. Every child knows that "XXX" means kisses and hugs and drawn hearts means love. Fill a page with them. No child can ever get enough love.
The writing of notes to young people, the expressing of love to another, is an act of pleasure, both for the writer and for the recipient. Every note you send a child, whether a love note or one filled with a riddle or silly story, is like laying another brick in the foundation of your child's life. It is a way of connecting. Each note conveys to your child that she or he is loved and cherished and need not feel along, that there is someone walking in the world today who loves that child and loves strongly enough to convey those feelings in writing.
For more help in writing notes to the children in your life, you can go to: Laptop Letters: Writing Wise & Loving Messages to Young People in Your Life and Lunch Box Letters: Writing Notes of Love and Encouragement to Your Children
(Bill Zimmerman, creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com, is the author of Lunch Box Letters: Writing Notes of Love and Encouragement to Your Children. His educational web sites are: www.makebeliefscomix.com and www.billztreasurechest.com.)
If you like the ideas expressed in this section please share them with other parents and groups you belong to.