We give birth to them. We teach them how to eat, speak and walk. They grow up under our roof in front of our eyes. And yet, they sometimes behave as though they are strangers. Their innermost thoughts and feelings, become a well hidden treasure trove, which we have no access to. Our feelings and thoughts become a complicated map which they can’t interpret.
‘Communication gap’– was the granddad of all monsters that afflicted families till a generation back. Today, it is no longer considered such a rampant problem. We believe that modern parenting style based on the pillar of ‘frank’ and free’ conversation between parent and child has slayed this monster. To a degree it has yet, it will be wrong to presume that all is hunky dory in the land of parent – child communication. Instructions and needs get conveyed and 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, say 5/6 or 8-year-olds 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 practising. Here is why I think sometimes letter writing is better even than face to face conversation with our children:
Reason no. 1
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 no. 2
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 side look, 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 no. 3
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.
Reason no. 4
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 no. 5
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 no. 6
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. 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 no. 7
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?
A mom of two, Sapna is a business woman, an avid book lover, a stand in decorator for her restaurants, a movie buff, a social worker by training and a “change maker” by choice. A dreamer, like her name suggests, she says she is dangerously sentimental and an idealist at heart. Married to her childhood sweetheart she lives in a small city in Rajasthan with her kids Maya 8 yrs. and Kabir 7 yrs. She started blogging a year back and uses her blog justanotherwakeupcall to make new friends and connect with people.