Tips for writing letters to your child

Writing is my first passion so you would think writing letters to our son, James would come naturally, yet it has been one of the most challenging pieces I have ever written. Where do you start? There’s so much to say and it is so hard to truly put all your feelings into words. So I thought I would share my process and thoughts for getting that pen to paper. 

Identify a Purpose

Identifying a purpose might seem odd. “What do you mean?” -  My purpose is to write letters to my child. I challenge you to take it a step further. What do you want your child to get out of this? Is it to read stories from their childhood? Read letters of love or learnings you want to pass down from your journey as their parent? Or maybe it’s all of the above. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but identifying a goal can help you tailor your letters and narrow down your thoughts and feelings. 

For James’ book, my goal is to share stories that stand out as pieces that I think will be foundational moments in his life. Anything that falls under that umbrella is a go.

Determine a Timeline

The key here is to establish a timeline that is manageable for you and pertains to your goal. Maybe you want to write one letter every few months. Maybe it's once a year as an annual recap. Maybe you want to give the book to your child by a certain age. There’s no “correct” way to do it. As long as it’s a goal you feel you can reach is all that matters. 

My intention is to give James his Letters to Me book once he turns 18. Since I want to write about special memories that stand out, I can’t predict when or how frequently I will write. However, I can make a conscious effort to think and reflect more on the everyday moments that can become stories in the book. 

Pick Your Themes

There are SO many things you can write about. SO many. By choosing big themes around your purpose, you can narrow down your ideas for when it comes down to getting those thoughts onto paper. These themes are really going to depend on the purpose for your book, but if you can identify at least three that contribute to your purpose, you’ll find your pen in hand writing on its own. 

Maybe you want to write letters with the goal of sharing your love for your child. A theme could be special moments that made you so proud to be their parent. Maybe you want your letters to be about sharing parenting advice. A theme could be cute funny stories where you learned first hand “what not to do.”

For me, I want to share stories of memories I think will be big moments that will contribute to the person he becomes. For example, we recently sat down as a family to watch the Kelly Shires Breast Cancer Snowrun virtual opening ceremonies. The Kelly Shires Breast Cancer Foundation is a charity very near and dear to our hearts and the Snowrun is an event we look forward to every year. In non pandemic times, James wouldn’t be part of this event until he was an adult so this was a special moment for him to “join” in the pink festivities. He loved watching past clips of us all dancing to Shania’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” Although James may not remember this when he is older, this was his first real memory of the Snowrun and is something we can’t wait for him to be part of too. This moment was truly so much more than twenty minutes huddled around our computer screen. 

Pen to Paper

You’ve got your purpose, your timeline and your themes, so what are you waiting for? Still unsure where to start but eager to get writing? Make your first entry about your purpose for writing these letters. Share with your child why you want to write to them and what you hope they value from this heartfelt book. 

I hope these tips help you get started on your writing journey. I know the feeling of uncertainty and the challenges of articulating your thoughts, but it’s not about how you write or exactly what you wrote. What does matter is that you did write.    

In one of my ‘ah-ha’ moments, I emptied the jar of blooms on a blank sheet of paper and arranged each piece carefully across the page

Laura Goulding