Do your children know your philosophy on life? Do they know what your core values are, and where you stand on important topics that impact their lives? Have you ever thought about putting it in writing?
About 2 years ago I started to write a book to my kids. I have two teenagers, a boy that is 17 and a girl that just turned 15. The 17-year-old is driving. The 15-year-old has her first boyfriend. I finished the book late last year and gave them both a copy of the same book on Christmas day. The book had various chapters and was about 80 pages long. It was age-appropriate and covered all the important topics for a teenager, like drugs & alcohol, driving, sex, God & religion, family, marriage, education, work, ambition, honesty & integrity, and several others.
In my mind the book served several purposes. First and foremost, it helped emphasize how much I love both of them. Receiving a personal book from their dad definitely made an impact on them; I’m sure they knew that it took quite a bit of my time and energy to write, and that emphasized how much I love them. I try to make sure to tell both of my kids how much I love them every day, but putting that down in writing provides them something they will have forever.
Second, the book provided clear direction and guidance on many important topics. Sure, I have had the “sex talk” with my son, and my wife has done the same with my daughter, but there will come a time when they may have questions about sex and be too embarrassed to ask. I hope they will revisit that chapter in the book to look for my advice. I would much rather have them turn to a book I wrote rather than asking one of their peers or trying to figure out what is appropriate from a TV show or a website.
My kids know about my faith, but they may not know what I believe about the “Big Bang” theory, or my thoughts on evolution. They know that I am married, but do they know my thoughts on marriage, dating or living with someone before they get married? They know that I am a “family man,” but do they know how important family really is to me? The book was an opportunity for me to share with my kids about my deepest thoughts, my philosophy on life, what my core values are, and where I stand on important topics that impact their lives.
Third, the book leaves a legacy. Let’s face it — we are not going to live forever. Hopefully we will all live to see our kids get married and raise families of their own, but in reality, many parents die before that happens. My dad died shortly after I was married, before either of my children was born. My dad was an awesome man and a wonderful mentor who always had great, calming advice. I miss being able to talk to him and hear his words of wisdom. I would do anything to have a book from my dad now — both for myself and to pass on to my children, so they could learn about him too.
If you do decide to write a book to your kids — or even if you find another way to capture your written legacy — I offer the following advice:
- Create chapters that address specific topics you feel are important to communicate with your kids. Keeping it topic-oriented will help you organize and focus your thoughts.
- Add personal information about you that will help your kids relate to you more. For example, I have a chapter called “Dad’s favorite things as a teen,” that tells them about my favorite music, books, movies, TV shows, sports, hobbies, food — you get the idea.
- Include a few pictures of you when you were younger. Maybe you had longer hair and didn’t look like the “serious” dad you are today. Those kinds of photos will help them realize that you were once a teen as well, and you’ve experienced many of the things they are experiencing now.
About half way through writing this book to my kids, I started to have such a passion for the idea that I began to develop a website to make it easy for other parents to do the same thing, and I’ve heard from many other parents who share my conviction that this is a wonderful gift for children.
Whatever approach you take and whatever you decide to write to your children, please consider this kind of gift for your kids. Even if they don’t act like they appreciate the book today — and even if they don’t read it for a while — they will certainly look at the book later in life and treasure the thoughts you put down in writing. Giving my two kids that book for Christmas was one of the best feelings I have had, because I know I am leaving them with my deepest thoughts and advice in a permanent form. I know they will look back at the book for years to come and hopefully one day they will do the same for their kids — and maybe even pass my book along to the next generation.
David Walters and his wife Susan have been married for 18 years and have a 17-year-old-son, Tim, and a 15 year old daughter, Allex. David is a director of sales for a large corporation, author of Book to My Kids, and founder of Book2MyKids.com. Find out more, including tools and instructions for writing a book to your kids at www.book2mykids.com.