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The power of a letter

One of my favorite things about spring is watching the trees bud out. This idea of little new beginnings brought on a conversation with my kids recently, about why there were some trees that looked like they were dying in the midst of many healthy ones. They were referring to the evergreen trees, so I explained how these huge, strong trees have withstood fierce winter storms, hail, and heavy snow for centuries but have now withered because of many tiny beetles that have eaten away at the core of the tree. This is so much like life, and what I constantly have to remind myself about relationships between parents and kids. Isn’t it the little critical comments that whittle away at the sacredness of our relationships? One of the most powerful acts, which create the biggest reconnection between parent and kid, is when a parent stops and writes a letter to their child. The process is simple: Sit down with paper and pen and write a dialogue to your child about the person they are, the person they have become, and what they mean to you. … I mean truly mean to you. What would life be like without them? What are their strengths and talents? What memories do you cherish the most with them? What do you hope for their life to become?In a parenting class, an assignment was to readjust the lens they use to look at their child. Under all of what your older child sometimes presents to you – the attitude, the egocentrism and the negativity – there is the core of a person who is yearning to be accepted. I challenged parents to write to that child. Even if they had to pull out a picture of when the older child was young, to visualize the core of the child, not the behavior of the child. The results were meaningful and tearful monologues of a journey of blessings that were not only written but cherished. The kids who received these letters were left with a full emotional bank account.If you have younger children, writing these sentiments will be meaningful to your child later. The letters might be something you both need when they hit adolescence, to enable you to reframe the reality you have about your child. Some kids have given feedback that the letters were one of the things they took with them when moving out of the house. We still cherish the letters we wrote to our children before they were even born, in wonder of who they would be. A letter chronicling the spirit of who your child is creates a tangible object that I can promise they will keep for a lifetime. One more deposit to their spirit to withstand the little beetles in life that attack their inner core. Kerri Cheney, MS, is a YouthZone youth and family specialist.


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