As of late, cyberspace seems to be flooded with "Open Letters." You know, those very clickable, usually uplifting, sometimes inspiring pieces that start with "Dear So-and-So" while actually published for all the world to see.
Every day this week, I've read an open letter, many from parents to their children. Fathers to young daughters. Mothers to teenage sons. I even received a proposal this week: an open letter from a mom to her second-born child. At first, I liked this idea, but I'm starting to feel frustration bubbling.
Don't get me wrong; I enjoy reading these notes. I think the content is important and these writers generally have something valuable to say—sometimes ideas I wish I had heard at an earlier age. My question is: Who reads these letters?
Not the children to whom they are written. I'm reading them. I think parents are reading them. But do they inspire action? Do these letters provoke parents to pass the lessons in these letters on to their children, or are we just passively spewing thoughts?
Dr. Kelly Flanagan wrote a letter to his now 4-year-old daughter from the makeup aisle, offering his own definitions for such familiar terms found there as brilliant strength. Dr. Flanagan writes: "May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world." His words are powerful—I printed the letter to hang on my fridge. While I actually really like makeup and think it's fun to put on and get dolled up, the messaging of makeup is not conducive to building the confidence necessary to enjoy makeup without needing makeup. Dr. Flanagan specifically states that he plans to read this to his daughter "eventually." I believe him. A man bold enough to write this is a man strong enough to read this.
But will other fathers? Are other parents going to teach their daughters about being strong and confident and true to themselves because of this letter, or is it just another URL passing in the night?
My fear is that "open letters" pass as communication. Reading an open letter and thinking on the topic for the 3 minutes it takes to read...that's enough. Nope. It's not.
Perhaps these writers have these tough conversations with their kids, but the rest of us need to talk, too. It's not about open letters but open and honest conversation. Letters must serve as guides for parents to talk to their daughters about confidence, their sons about emotional intelligence, their children about acceptance, their teens about drinking and drugs. I urge parents to take an active role in shaping our future generations. Allow these letters to spark a discussion. Make your children know how you feel and what you want them to know because an open letter of untaught principles is like a letter to Santa—full of hope, but really just for the fun of it.
Do you have tough talks with your child? How do you approach them? Sound off in the comments below!