by Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield
Dad, if you plan on being in line with millions of other men across the country who have waited until the last minute to get Christmas gifts for their kids, then you’re going to want to keep reading.
Why? Because I have a Christmas gift idea for you that your daughter will love! (And for the record, you can adapt this idea for your son as well.)
- It won’t cost any money.
- It won’t require driving to the mall. (You’re welcome!)
- It will only take about an hour of your time.
- It’s guaranteed to be one of her all-time favorite gifts.
Do you want to know what it is? WRITING A LETTER.
One of the greatest presents you can give your daughter is to affirm her through writing. In a world where written communication is increasingly digital (texts, emails, tweets), a letter scripted in your own handwriting is sure to stand out as unique.
Let me share a story that highlights this:
Several years ago, I was attending an outdoor event where I was giving away copies of my first book as prizes, and of course talking with people as I signed each book. One person I met was a dad whose 17-year-old daughter lived with her mom halfway across the country. He said that he made it a point to text her a few times a week to try to stay connected. I affirmed him for consistently investing his daughter and then decided to say a bit more (I know…BIG SURPRISE!).
I encouraged him to write letters to his daughter periodically, adding that when a dad writes something in his own handwriting, it stands out from technology. I acknowledge that I may have misread his body language, but I got the sense that I’d said enough, so we smiled and said goodbye.
An hour or so later, another book winner was a beautiful woman in her late 50s who had two sons, but she was still looking forward to reading about dads and daughters. She promised to give the book to a dad of a daughter when she finished.
I probed a bit deeper and inquired about her relationship with her dad. She readily shared that her father was a quiet man, and they didn’t have much of a relationship because he worked a lot. Then her tone changed, and she broke into a beaming smile as she continued:
“When I was in eighth grade, my dad went out of town for business. It was during that one particular trip that he wrote me two letters. I don’t quite know why he did it, but I’m glad he did.”
I had a sense that I already knew the answer to my next question but asked it anyway: “Did you save the letters?”
Without hesitation she confessed, “Yes, I sure did … and I still have them.”
With her permission, I found the dad I had met earlier and told him her story as a reminder about the importance of a dad’s written words to his daughter.
Suffice it to say, this woman’s story is a powerful lesson to fathers of daughters (and sons).
Dad, put your words of affirmation, acceptance, kindness, belief, encouragement, promise, and praise into writing because your child will treasure what you say to her for a lifetime.
Here’s one more reason a letter from you will have significant impact: As an adult daughter myself, I have saved every single card my dad ever made me … and I have a lot of them! I count them among my most valued possessions.
The time you spend putting your thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes, and dreams into written form will pay dividends long after you’re gone, as she reads and rereads your words.
Whether you’re a dad who has already begun this practice or you are a tentative newbie, I want to share a few ideas to support your pen-to-paper challenge. Here are a few dad-to-daughter letter-writing ideas to help you:
- What’s one of the first things you remember about her from when she was born, when you looked at her for the first time?
- What beauty did you see in her then, and what beautiful features do you see in her now? (Girls love hearing about their eyes, smile, and the unique features that you see as beautiful.)
- Write about a favorite childhood memory you have of her.
- What strengths do you believe she has, both in terms of skill and in her person (her character, personality)?
- Tell her specific reasons you’re proud of her.
- Write about what obstacles you have seen her overcome. Emphasize such qualities as courage, resilience, strength, commitment, and endurance.
- Write about dreams you have for her future, whether in the form of your wishes for her or things you pray about for her. (Do this without preaching or lecturing; just encourage.)
- Tell her what it means to you to spend time with her.
- Communicate why you love being her dad in this season of her life. (Add things you notice about her right now and highlight them as positive).
- Let her know that you will always be there for her.
- Tell her what it means to you to be her dad.
Dad, why not take the time right now to put your love for your daughter in writing.
And as you give her the gift of a letter from you this Christmas, I guarantee that it will be one of her favorite gifts … EVER!
Want more ideas for how to engage your daughter’s heart? Order a copy of Michelle’s book, Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters. *Also a great gift for a dad you know.*
Read more of Michelle’s articles here.
Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield is a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum for dads of daughters (ages 13 to 30), and author of Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters and Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart (both available on Amazon and Audible). She also hosts a weekly radio program in Portland called “The Dad Whisperer,” which you can access as a podcast on her website and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Visit drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.