One mom's experience as an amputee taught her that words can lift us up and empower us to do more than we ever thought possible. Here's how she is imparting those lessons to her children.

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An illustration of a mom speaking with her daughter.
Credit: Caitlin- Marie Miner Ong.

As adults, we understand that words hold power. But how do we convey the weight and impact of something so intangible to our children?

In 2013, I was involved in a boating accident that led to the loss of my left leg, severe injuries in my right leg, and lost temporary function of my right arm. In that moment, and in the moments of recovery following, everything about my perspective changed.

I have always believed in the power of words—as Hallmark executive, it is almost a given. But the cards and words of encouragement I received after my accident sustained me through my darkest days. When the recovery process seemed impossible, kind words lifted me up and helped me believe I could do it. This forever altered how I think of words and the impact words can have on others. Here's my advice on teaching your kids the importance of words too.

Emphasize the Importance of Relationships

My kids were 2 and 4 years old when I was in my accident. They saw firsthand how important it was for us to have a support system. We still tell stories about that time and how fortunate we were to have people who were there for us.

At Hallmark, we study the impact of relationships, and understand that relationships can be even more important to your happiness than your circumstances. This has certainly been my experience, and I think most of us learned not to take relationships for granted over the last year of unique challenges.

I also talk a lot with my kids about the importance of being connected with family, friends, and our community. Even more importantly, I try to model the behavior, such as making an effort to stay close to family and friends. Just as it is important for adults, I believe it's important for our kids to feel like they are a part of the community, part of something bigger.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Words—and how they are spoken—play an integral, foundational role in our relationships with others. At my job, we spend a great deal of time discussing word choice and tone, but in real life it's easy to let this slip.

I've found that the best way to teach positive word choice is to lead by example. I try to emphasize positive word choices and tone in my everyday interactions, from how I talk about negative circumstances out of our control to how I navigate frustrating situations, like getting stuck in traffic.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep your cool—especially when you've had a stressful day—and I am far from perfect on this front. But remember that your kids are watching everything you do and say, and they will ultimately benefit from the positive example you set. I also try to call myself out when I do make mistakes, showing them that intentional words can also heal and mend relationships.

Write it Down

Cards are a powerful medium for conveying the power of words to your kids. Once you've experienced the magic of a card—the feeling of finding the perfect card, handwriting the special message, and the affirmation you get from the recipient—you are inspired to do it more often.

Now that my kids are 10 and 12 years old, I encourage them to select and write their own cards for friends and family. This is an excellent way for them to learn how to express themselves, as well as learn practical life skills like how to address an envelope properly. I love seeing what they write as it's a signal into what's important to them in a relationship. It goes both ways, too. Recently, I saw a handwritten message that one of my daughter's friends wrote to her on her birthday. It meant to so much to my daughter to hear why she is a good friend. Positive reinforcement from a friend carries a lot of weight, and it's awesome to see kids learn how to give it.

Card sending really is a habit, so you want to start them young. It's a great way to nurture the relationships children have in their lives. Even if they aren't old enough to write yet, having your kids color a picture or add stickers is a great personal touch to the message you help write inside. Who doesn't love getting a hand decorated card from a child?

Lastly, I love giving them cards. It's a great way to encourage them or tell them why they are special or why they make us proud. Sliding them under their bedroom door or leaving them in a place they will find them is a great way to encourage your kids even if you're not physically there.

Lean into Technology

Technology, including text messages and social media, is also a critical place to emphasize the power of words. I regularly talk to my kids about their online presence and how words sent digitally are important to consider. These days it's all too easy to send a thoughtless message, which is why I encourage my kids never to send or post words online that they wouldn't say to someone's face—or wouldn't want me to read!

The great thing about technology is it can enable us to connect more. For example, Hallmark recently launched a new service called Sign & Send which allows you to put your own handwriting in a real Hallmark card and send it directly from your phone. As parents, we may not always have everything we need to send a card, such as stamps, so Sign & Send lets you easily browse real cards on Hallmark.com, write a message on a piece of paper, take a photo of the message, and upload it to a card. Hallmark then physically sends the card to your recipient printed with your real handwriting and takes care of the cost of postage.

Platforms like Sign & Send marry the best parts of technology—convenience and ease of use—with the thoughtfulness of a physical gesture. My hope for the future is that we'll continue developing ways to easily spread words of kindness and to show others we care, and in doing so, help the next generation use their words for the greater good.  

Lindsey Roy is senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Hallmark. Day-to-day, she is responsible for all things related to the consumer's experience with Hallmark, including marketing, branding, hallmark.com, branded subsidiaries, and consumer care for Hallmark's greeting card and retail business. Lindsey believes in authentic leadership and the unparalleled power of the greeting card category and the Hallmark brand.