fathering advice

A Father’s Written Legacy

One question that gnaws at all fathers is this: “How can I leave a legacy for my kids?” If I could give some fathering advice, I would say that the written word is powerful. Certainly, it’s important to speak words of blessing and encouragement to our sons and daughters, but writing has the potential to last much longer since people can save written words and read them over and over again.

The written word has the power to shape and encourage our children and build a lasting family legacy. Here are 4 great and easy ways to use writing to leave legacies for and affirm our children.

1. Write a journal.

Keep a written journal for each child. Just get a book of blank pages and write about what’s happening in your family’s life, the joys of being a father, your hopes and dreams for your child as he or she grows, or the important values and beliefs you want to pass on. And don’t skimp. Spend a few bucks to get a nice bound or even leather volume.

2. Create a secret email account for each of your kids.

Start as early as possible, even when your wife is pregnant. You can send your kid an email every day, once a week, or once a month, or you can record your thoughts on birthdays or holidays and right before or after special events like graduations and significant “firsts.” When your children reach a certain age, give them the login information. Not only will the emails’ content have an impact on your kids long-term, but so will each email’s timestamp, which shows your kids just how long and how deeply you’ve been invested in them.

3. Use a From Me to You journal.

These books are for writing back and forth with your children. Each journal already has questions for both of you to answer, and there’s one designed for sons and one designed for daughters. It’s a really great way to connect and communicate, especially with kids who are quieter.

4. Write letters.

Not long ago, I invited a college student named Amy to join my family for Sunday dinner. Often, in conversations, I’ll ask lots of questions about a person’s family history, and try to look under and in between the lines to discern what kind of relationship a person has with his or her father.

As we talked to Amy, she was hesitant to talk about her father. It was clear there had been some challenges during her teenage years. One thing she did say about her father is this: “When I left for college, my father wrote me a long letter. And in that letter, he shared some of his mistakes and failures as a father. And as I’ve read that letter time and time again, it has made me think about how my father really does want to strengthen and create a relationship with me that will be long-lasting, and I find great comfort when I read the words that he wrote to me.”

These are just four ideas for leaving a written legacy—and maybe you have better ones that work for your family. But I urge you to write often to your children. Think of it this way: Something you write today could give your child the encouragement and guidance he or she needs tomorrow, or 10 years from now. And if your child passes it down, what you write could impact your descendants a century from now.

Sound off: What are some other ways to leave a written legacy?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?”