Many of us would like to give something of value to our children to help make their lives easier and more meaningful. What we bequeath them, however, should be more than merely a monetary inheritance. Other things carry cheap articles equal or more importance. Here is a list of items and ideas that you can pass on to your kids to help them and deepen the meaning of their lives:
1: Photo Albums
Most people possess photographs and video recordings that they have collected over the years, but few have organized such treasures so that their families can enjoy them. Cataloging your photographs will help your children find through what you give them and feel more connected to you and your family.
Saving and organizing photos and videos is easier than ever with online storage, flash drives, and external hard drives.
2: Family Tree
You don’t have to be a genealogist to do some basic work on a family tree. Many families have heirloom Bibles with relationship information written in the front, and libraries and the Internet provide marvelous opportunities to understand family structures. Interviewing the older members of your family can provide a rich source of historical information. Software also exists that you can use to put your images into a pleasing format.
3: Your Autobiography
One need not be a writer to make penning an autobiography a meaningful experience. Although you may not think your life is all that interesting, once you begin to write, you may be surprised at how much you have to say. Several approaches to such projects are possible, though, so you’ll have to make an initial decision as to how you want to proceed. You may elect to cover only the high points, treat each of your relationships separately, or draft the narrative in chronological order. Each approach has pros and cons, so you will have to choose the one that fits your personality, writing style, and patience limit. Your children will appreciate and enjoy this gift perhaps more than anything else you bequeath them.
4: Common Sense
No one can anticipate all of the situations that present themselves in life, so common sense becomes the go-to guy when difficult and unfamiliar challenges are upon us. Assuming you possess this gift, two ways exist for passing it to your progeny—first, by employing common sense in everything you do, and second, by engaging in common-sense discussions at home.
5: Hard Assets
Educating your offspring so they can make it in the workplace is important, but giving them a direct financial boost also doesn’t hurt. Moderate monetary assistance combined with wise investment guidance will help your children form successful financial attitudes. Perhaps your child, as a young adult, has sufficient income to purchase a house, but no money for furniture. Your help in purchasing a refrigerator, sofa, washer, or dryer might be the difference between making a solid investment and continuing to waste money on rent.
6: Homemaking Skills
We all need to develop basic homemaking skills. Learning simple things, like how to sew a button on a shirt, clean a carpet, or change a furnace filter, will go a long way toward making your child independent. Everyone should know how to change the oil in a car, cook a meal, and start a lawn mower. Not having such basic knowledge puts people at a distinct disadvantage in the world.
7: Work Skills
The days of apprenticing to learn the family business are gone. Nevertheless, teaching your kids something about what you do at work is worth the effort. As a boy, I acquired knowledge from my parents about school teaching, construction, and farming that I didn’t realize I had until years later. The mother of a friend of mine was a professional dressmaker, but she didn’t show her daughter anything about her work. Even so, my friend is an excellent seamstress. Imagine what her skill level might be had her mother made an effort to teach her the tricks of the trade!
8: Financial-Management Skills
As recently as the first half of the twentieth century, farmland, animals, machinery, barns, houses, and furniture comprised people’s entire estates. Now we have IRAs and 401(k)s that we must nurture and protect. Learning financial-management skills and passing them on to your children is no longer a luxury reserved for the rich. If your children don’t learn how to handle money and investments, they will almost certainly suffer losses. Teaching them prudence and money-management skills will make a real difference in their lives.
Heirlooms are excellent items for bequeathal. Wedding rings, jewelry, collections, quilts, toys, art, tools, books, certificates, and family Bibles are just some of the things people save and pass from generation to generation.
10: A Life Philosophy
Teaching a life philosophy does not necessarily mean imposing formal religion on your children. It does mean, however, that passing on some notion of what we are doing on this earth is desirable. Religious groups go about this energetically, while non-religious folks are sometimes more relaxed. Anything you do to reduce your children’s anxiety will help them when they run into the stone walls that life presents.
In bygone days, wives stayed home and took care of the house and children. Now, with women working, no one is free to do the tasks that good homemaking requires. Practicing cleanliness and orderliness will help your children get along with roommates in college and spouses in marriage. Everyone in a household must contribute to its tidiness, and your personal example and persistent training will instill this in your kids.
12: Relationship Criteria
Some parents struggle with how to set criteria for their children’s friendships. On one hand, they want their kids to treat others equally and fairly. On the other, they are aware that cultivating certain friendships may not contribute to their children’s success in school and out. No easy answer exists, but the best approach is probably to maintain an open dialogue at home about the need to be fair while at the same time emphasizing the desirability of associating with people who have similar goals. Sometimes we have to make difficult choices, and selecting friends is one of the most challenging skills that young people must learn.
Other things may come to mind that you would like to pass on to your progeny. I encourage you to start the planning process as soon as possible. With respect to the intangibles, you can begin to deliver them to your kids at an early age. You can transfer the tangibles as you go or through a validly executed will. Any way you do it, your heirs will appreciate your giving them pieces of yourself that will strengthen their lives and family connections.