This article first appeared on Christian Grandparenting Network, 1/31/22
When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail – handwritten, folded with care, and addressed just to you?
Or here’s another question. When was the last time you sent such a letter to one of your grandchildren?
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it hasn’t happened often, if ever. After all, we live in the digital age, where our grandchildren’s lives are tethered to screens. What possible place could an old-fashioned, handwritten letter hold here?
A Lesson from Jeopardy!
We may not think a letter from us would hold any weight with our grandchildren or that they would even care to receive one from us. But I was reminded just how far from the truth that is while watching an episode of Jeopardy recently.
It came to the place in the episode where the host briefly interviews each contestant. The teaser for the current champion’s interview was that she had a “treasured” collection. Of course, everyone sat waiting for the revealing of this treasured collection. As the contestant shared, it turned out that her “treasure” was a cherished assortment of letters from her grandpa! While he didn’t live far from her during her growing up years, still he delighted in writing her letters about his day and what was going on outside his window. Simple letters, yet they became a treasure.
Three Reasons for Writing Letters to Your Grandchildren
1. A letter is personal.
Honestly, when you open your mailbox and amid all the digitally processed and junk mail find one single envelope with your name carefully handwritten across it, doesn’t it make your heart skip a little?
Your grandchildren are no different. They love opening the mailbox to find something inside with their name handwritten on it. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. It is theirs.
When we take the time to handwrite a letter to our grandchild, we show that we are thinking of them and that we are interested in them as an individual. Letters from grandparents provide a sense of security, love, and belonging.
Additionally, our letters help our grandchildren come to know us better and strengthen our relationship.
2. A letter is breathing space.
Of course, we can send texts and email messages to our grandchildren, and sometimes that is exactly the thing we need to do. However, sitting down to handwrite a letter is like pressing pause on the fast pace of life. As we write, we secure a few moments of stopping, slowing down, and enjoying the pleasure of letting thoughts wander.
And when our grandchildren open our letters and sit to read them, they too enjoy the pause as they linger over a meaningful message from someone who truly cares.
3. A letter is tangible.
I have a Kindle, and there are times when I am so thankful for that slim little device that I can throw into my bag and take along without bulk or effort. But, if you ask me, “Kindle or physical books?” I will choose books every time. There is just something about holding a book and turning the pages.
A handwritten letter is much the same. It can be opened and slipped from the envelope. It can be held in the hands and pulled out again and again.
Letters are a tiny part of your life shared with your grandchild. They are a legacy of your love that can be carried with your grandchild anywhere they go. And just like the contestant on Jeopardy, your letters can become a keepsake your grandchildren will treasure in their adult years and quite possibly pass on to their children.
As you sit here thinking about handwritten mail, it’s quite likely you are realizing that until now most of your communication with your grandchildren has been done in an instant on a device with a screen. You may, in fact, be feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering where to begin. Might I suggest beginning with a baby step?
Valentine’s Day is just a couple of weeks away. Don’t sit down and try to will yourself to compose a lengthy multi-page letter worthy of framing. You will most likely be overwhelmed and quit before you even begin.
Instead, go buy a Valentine’s card. Spend a little time in the card aisle and choose one appropriate for your grandchild. But before you address the envelope and mail it off, be sure to write a few personal lines inside the card. Share a favorite memory or mention something you admire about your grandchild. Not a full-blown letter but certainly a beginning.
Practical Tips for Writing Letters to Grandchildren
Don’t stop now. Once you’ve written that first Valentine’s letter, you’ll be ready for the next. Here are some more practical tips to help keep you moving forward on your letter writing journey.
- Use print, not cursive, when writing to young children. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to use print across the board as many children have not had the opportunity to receive instruction in cursive handwriting the past few years.
- Keep the letter short and simple. This will suit the needs of young grandchildren and those with short attention spans. And even if your grandchildren can handle length, letters that are short and simple are more likely to leave your grandchildren wanting to hear more from you.
- Be specific and descriptive. Remember elementary writing class? Choose one topic and write about it in detail.
- Talk about personal and individual topics, not the weather. The weather is obvious. One merely needs to look out the window or pull it up on a smartphone. Engage your grandchild’s attention as they read your letter by talking about things that are meaningful to them or to you.
- Write about things you enjoy or appreciate about your grandchildren. Take the opportunity to affirm your grandchild. Tell them about a Christ-like characteristic you’ve seen demonstrated in their life.
- Share your own interests and experiences. Be sure to include both the successes and the struggles. True, sharing our struggles isn’t easy, especially when we share them with our grandchildren. But here in this hard place is where our relationship deepens. In sharing our struggles, we show our grandchildren that struggles are normal. We model “how” to struggle.
- Use humor. Laughter is good for the soul and for relationships.
- Ask your grandchild’s advice.
- Use a highlighter to draw attention to things you don’t want your grandchild to miss.
- Include pictures you’ve drawn or cut out, photographs, or coloring pages.
- Tuck small items in your letters from time to time. This could be something such as a stick of gum, a sheet of stickers, or a magnet.
- Attach stickers to your letter. Use them to emphasize a point, as part of your signature, on the envelope, or just for fun.
- Create your own personalized signature. Every time you send something to your grandchild, be sure to use a dot of that same perfume, attach that identical fuzzy sticker, or draw your own special smiley face on the envelope or next to your name.
- One very important thing to keep in mind when using the postal system is: ONCE THE LETTER HAS LEFT YOUR HANDS, DELIVERY OF THAT LETTER IS OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. This is a crucial thing to keep in mind If you have multiple grandchildren living under one roof. Be proactive by (1) placing all individually addressed letters in a single larger envelope so everything arrives at the same time, or (2) letting your family know that you plan to stagger the arrival of letters. This allows you to spread out your letter writing, makes letter arrival day “special” for the one receiving the letter, and builds anticipation for siblings who know their turn is coming.
Handwritten letters are personal and deeply satisfying in ways that electronic communication can never be, no matter how well-crafted the message. And the joy our grandchildren receive from our letters addressed to them and discovered in the mailbox simply cannot be overstated.