While instructions and needs do get conveyed. To an extent even feelings and thoughts are expressed. But often, dreams, hopes, aspirations, failures, frustrations, ideas, decisions and the reasoning behind those decisions remain unexplained. This gap exists on both sides. When our kids are young we as parents sometimes desist from really talking with them. Often we do so to shield them from the bitter truths of life. As they grow up into teenagers and young adults they clam up from us.
How can we as parents make sure that we really communicate with our children?
There are many barriers to free and frank conversation with children. Time is one of them or rather I should say lack of relaxed free time is one of these barriers. Other obstacles are short attention spans of children, clash of parent – child personalities, our own inability to speak frankly, a tendency to fall into the ‘lecture’ mode, an unwillingness to listen on part of children etc. etc.
One of the methods that I have found very effective in communicating better with my children is writing them letters. In today’s age of emails, what’s app and twitter, letter writing is a lost art. But in my opinion it’s an art worth practicing.
Here is why I think sometimes letter writing is better even than face to face conversation with our children:
Reason # One
A letter can be edited
A letter provides me the space to think carefully about what I wish to say and put it down in the best possible way. It affords the luxury of re-reading my words, examining them from the child’s perspective and changing whatever is necessary. A talk doesn’t provide that chance. What is once said cannot be taken back.
Reason # Two
A letter keeps me in control.
The process of putting my feelings and thoughts on paper helps me think more clearly. It helps me separate my biases and assumptions from my instinct and experiences. A talk on the other hand is often impromptu. Even if one does plan what one will say it doesn’t always go as planned. One misinterpreted gesture, A wrong tone can set the whole thing off track. What is meant to be an “I understand you” talk turns into a lecture or a shouting match that leaves unhappy feelings on both ends.
Reason # Three
A letter gives the respondent time and space
A letter gives the child time to think about what you have said before having to respond. When a parent writes “This is the way I feel. What do you think about it?” often it gets the child thinking about the issue. Because there is no pressure to respond immediately chances are children will think deeper about the issue. But in a talk such a statement may make the child feel cornered. Many children may become tongue tied at such questions. The first reaction then is to flee the situation or trivialize it.
A letter can serve as a precursor to a meaningful talk.
Reason # Four
A letter allows frankness
A letter allows franker discussions. While a few of us are comfortable talking about our innermost feelings in person. A large number of us find it difficult. Moreover children and parents may find certain subjects embarrassing to discuss face to face but easier to write about on an impersonal paper.
Reason # Five
A letter shows effort
A letter shows the child that the parent has made an effort to communicate. If the letter is on a particular subject it implies that the subject is important to the parent and that it has been given due thought.
Reason # Six
A letter is forever
There is a something about the written word. It is somehow more reassuring than mere spoken words. A letter is an object with a physical entity. It is present, can be seen, touched and felt. It can be held and stored over long periods of time. Letters can be collected in a cardboard box, filed neatly or tied with a ribbon and kept as precious keepsakes. They are treasures and a means of holding on to one’s past. In that sense they are like photographs. But unlike photographs, letters capture much more than just appearances. Letters give a glimpse into the lives the people who wrote and received them. In this way our letters to our children act as little history notebooks of our own. They chronicle the history of our family and our relationships with our children.
And there is one more added benefit – Who knows someday our children may grow up to be important celebrities. The bunch of letters written now could prove very useful in writing their biographies!
Reason # Seven
Old Age Insurance
Most of all I write them letters hoping that when they grow up they will send me letters too. Letters with pictures of the places they have been, little notes that say they miss me, and postcards hurriedly scribbled through that tell me they think of me.
How many of you are letter writers? Do you write to your children? What are your letters about?