How few people write personal letters anymore? In 2015 the frequency with which someone received a personal letter was every ten weeks. I assume it is less frequent today, except birthdays or special occasions cards. The last personal note I received was a Christmas letter from a good friend. Nowadays you don’t have to even remember someone’s birthday – sign up for an automatic birthday greeting delivered online. Facebook even helps out by sending reminders that so and so is having a birthday. We have become a society that communicates through soundbites using emails, texts, Instagram, and an emoji’s “personal” touch. It just warms my heart when I get one of those little round smiley faces.
The Lost Art of Letter Writing
Families have suffered the most from this lost art. Although communication between family members and adult children may have increased, these communications are often less personal. Often more like Facebook chatter. When do we take the time to honestly share from the heart our thoughts and feelings toward our adult children? Sometimes weddings, funerals, or special occasions give rise to expressions of love and affection among family members. Still, such expressions are not routine and may be suspect if only shared at such times. Why is this? For me, it seems a little awkward to spend some time with my young adult son or daughters and find a way to insert an “I love you” in a way that is more than a greeting or a farewell. Do we ever get tired of hearing this from someone we love? But how often do we sit down and write out a personal note that says how much we love our son or daughter and how much they are valued and appreciated?
Why Write a Letter to Your Young Adult?
Within the context of the relationship between us as parents and our young adult children and in service of the letting go process, I would encourage putting pen to paper and sharing specific thoughts and feelings.
On why writing a letter, consider the following:
- It shows we care enough to take the time to sit down and handwrite a personal communication.
- It is something tangible to hand or send a letter to your young adult. They can feel this, reread, and know that a dad or mom’s hands have written this.
- It is novel. It will stand out in the digital age. It will be unique in the world of emails, texts, Instagram, etc.
- It requires time, effort, and thoughtfulness, especially if you find nice stationery and a corresponding envelope.
- It says I am especially thinking of you and just wanted you to know this. Don’t we all continue to appreciate the attention from our parents?
I understand that some of us are more talkers than writers and are more comfortable verbalizing our thoughts and feelings. That being the case, getting a written communication from someone who doesn’t typically do this type of thing will clearly be remembered and appreciated.
Initiating Heartfelt Communication
In service of bettering the relationship between parents and young adults, I suggest that there are several opportunities to initiate heartfelt communications:
- The importance of communicating our unconditional love for our children and how much they matter to us. I have shared in other writings; this message can be life-saving for a young adult who comes on hard times and wonders if their life matters.
- It is essential to address any mistakes made or regrets that we have in raising our children in the form of a well-stated apology. None of us are likely to attend or be invited to join the “perfect parent” association, so there is always an opportunity to apologize.
- We may need to deal with our anger, frustration, or resentment toward our young adult and their irresponsible or abusive behavior. Some parents are so hurt and angry toward their young adults that they don’t want to be around them and, in some extreme cases, have cut off all communication with them. In such cases, we need to dig deep and forgive our kids, not primarily for their sake but for ours. Forgiveness is a gift to the forgiver, and as long as we harbor resentment, we can never have a healthy relationship with them even if they turn their lives around.
- Finally, maybe the most difficult letter to write is the letter that we write to say goodbye. We may avoid this letter because it requires us to face the reality of the end of a relationship we have known. Our unwillingness to say goodbye often speaks to a subconscious resistance to the fact that there will come a day when we will not be there for them.
Let me offer one final thought on the timing of a letter. There may be an argument for waiting until we think our young adults will be receptive to hearing from us in this personal way, but we are making an assumption this day will come and it may not. So why wait?
If not now, then when?
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