Gifts for Children that Last a Lifetime

October 13, 2010

in Parenting

We give our children many gifts in their lifetime, but what will we give them that will be with them forever? Definitely not the newest Wii game or Barbie house. These gifts will be broken or lost a few years after receiving them. These material possessions will most likely be forgotten over time.
The gifts our children will remember, shape who they become, and will be passed on to their children are the non-material gifts they receive. I recently asked friends to tell me the greatest non-material gift they have given their children. I received a variety of answers from men and women in all different stages of life. Some who responded are new parents and some are grandparents. Some are married and some are separated or divorced.

The Best Non-Material Gifts given to Children
  • Time and attention
  • Life, then love
  • Laughter in the home
  • A loving, connected family to grow up in
  • Fostering self confidence and creative freedom
  • Unconditional love
  • Respect and trust
  • The confidence to make good choices on their own
  • An understanding of the world they live in–and to give to those who are in need
  • A good community in which to be raised–knowing that it takes a village to do this successfully
  • Teaching perseverance
  • The knowledge that anything is possible with hard work
I enjoyed reading what my friends shared and was impressed with some of the answers. I agree with everything shared, but feel one gift is missing:

An amicable divorce

Before separating I read about the affects of divorce on children, spoke to a child psychologist, and a school counselor. I was terrified that all the other gifts I have given my children would be for naught as I ruined their lives with divorce. I worried about the lifelong affects and wondered how badly this would scar them. What I learned from reading and speaking to professionals is that the kids would survive, possibly even thrive, if they were able to experience an amicable divorce. Their greatest chance for success now and in the future was if we could give them this gift.

If I worried so much, why didn’t I work on my marriage? That might be a question that pops into some readers’ minds. I did try–really hard and for a long time. The situation continued to get worse to the point where divorce was what was best not just for me, but for all four of us. Yes, even the kids. The kids needed a different home life. And yet, knowing all of this, I still worried I was doing irrevocable harm to them.

Giving my children the gift of an amicable divorce is not a gift I ever wanted to give them. At times it took a great deal of maturity, love for them, and self control to continue to give this gift. By maintaining a keen focus on my children through this entire process, I have unexpectedly given myself a gift as well; I am more at peace. I have an opportunity to remain friends with my ex because there was not irrevocable damage done in the divorce process. I also feel better as a mom that I put my children first in a process where it is easy to lose perspective.

What is the greatest non-material gift you have given your children?

If you have experienced divorce, is there any specific non-material gift that helped your children with the divorce?

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin October 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Actually the gift of a good divorce is something that I gave my kids as my parents divorce was a shit hole. So I did not want my kids to have that experience that I went through. Also time is a huge gift and just doing simple things with my kids are two big gifts I have given them.

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Naked Girl in a Dress October 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Justin~

I am so happy you were also able to stay positive in the divorce process. Your kids will benefit long-term from the effort.

Thanks for visiting!

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JP October 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Took my son to a baseball game while the girls went with their mom to Chicago to the American Girl store…

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Dr. Leah @Singlemommyhood October 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm

My greatest gift to my children was the opportunity to see their solo mom embrace change. And make the best of the opportunities available. This is really a terrific post. Thanks for opening up this conversation.

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Naked Girl in a Dress October 13, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Thank you Dr. Leah for visiting and commenting. I thought it might be a good post to share with you. Your contribution to the conversation is appreciated!

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Matty October 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I agree with all of those answers. My three children are grown, and I’d have to say that time was the best thing I gave them. I spent almost all my free time playing with them, doing homework, going places with them, and so on.

I’m also divorced and remarried now. My two oldest were grown by the time of the divorce, but the youngest was 12 at the time. I kept things amicable, but her mom had a lot of difficulty with it, and unfortunately “coached” our daughter on viewing the whole thing with a slanted perspective. It takes two to make a divorce amicable.
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Grace October 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I think one of the best non-material gifts I’ve given my kids is a love for reading.
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Naked Girl in a Dress October 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm

That is a great gift Grace!

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Barb October 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Some of the greatest gifts are the simple, little things like playing a board game, swimming together, taking bike rides, just good ole’ spending time together!

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Jennifer October 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I have just discovered your blog. What a gem!

I think the greatest gift I’ve given my daughter is the gift of problem solving. My husband and I have paid great attention to the frustrations my daughter has encountered in her first three years of life. Rather than jumping to the rescue, we’ve taken the time to support and encourage her through the process of investigating problems and exploring her own solutions.

It is our hope that this will help her in life… in her education, her relationships and her career.
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Naked Girl in a Dress November 9, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Jennifer~
Thank you so much for the kind words! I hope you will be back to visit again. And thank you for sharing a gift you have given your daughter!

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Tanya October 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Hey Kelley,
I think the gift of an amicable divorce is admirable. My parents divorced when I was 8. Even though my parents never spoke bad about each other to my sisters and me, they were both consumed by their own issues and didn’t always realize what they were unintentionally doing to us. Divorce is never easy but trying to make it bearable for everyone is always the best route.
Thanks for sharing.
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Naked Girl in a Dress November 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Thank you Tanya. I have tried to stay focused through this process. I do hope it helps my kids long-term that they see two people who love them also respecting each other even if we couldn’t continue to be married to each other.

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Kate October 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Ohhh, I’m so with you on this one. Granted, the divorce took a while to get to the “amicable” stage, but we’re there now. We even BBQ together for some holidays, have played in a volleyball tournament together, and get my boys’ half-siblings on both sides together to play. We’ve got our own little bizarro functional-dysfunctional extended family, and it works out, even if it totally confuses the younger kids at times.

Other good things: a great stepfather, regular family dinners, and an ability to be responsible for themselves.
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Naked Girl in a Dress November 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Kate,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences post-divorce. I think it is wonderful for you all and for the children that it can be such a healthy situation.

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nicole abdou December 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

That is such an excellent point – an amicable divorce. Gee – I really know very few people who are successful at this.

Thanks for sharing.
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Cheryl @ Mommypants December 18, 2010 at 11:52 am

The gift of wonder is a pretty big one.

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Nichole December 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

The greatest gifts that I give my children is the gift of presence.
I make extra effort to not just go through the motions, but to truly play with them and listen to their thoughts.
Some days are tougher than others, but I truly believe that by making them feel important and heard, I am giving them a strong sense of self.

I wish you continued peace on your brave path.
Your children are blessed to have a mother who gives so much consideration to their feelings. That you recognize how much control you have over this experience is a beautiful, empowering thing.

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Naked Girl in a Dress December 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Nichole~
The gift of presence is such a wonderful gift too.

Thank you for the well wishes. We are entering the holidays in a good place and I am so grateful for the good relationship with him. It is great for the children, but for us too.

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Carrie December 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I think the opportunity to be themselves and to not have to conform to what is expected. It is by far the most difficult thing for me to give them and I am trying everyday to shut my own expectations (within reason) out and letting them be who they are
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Carrie~
This is a great gift to share with your children. Thanks for adding to the list.

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Rodney January 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

This is a great post and a perfect way to look at things.

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Eric G February 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

Wow..I read this article reflecting what exactly is going on in my life at the moment. A little background..we are also amicable after 2 years of counseling and both joint therapy and individual therapy.
I can honestly say I have never been at more peace now than in all the years we have been together. I am a work at home dad, I saw them each day off to school and was home when they returned. I was Dads taxi as well as the part time short order cook.
But we simply had differences that came about while in therapy. we were different people going in then when we came out. (but better people) we learned to deal with compromise, anger, dealing with feelings and learning to be compassionate. Thru that..we have also learned that nothing else matters but the kids. We may not see each other eye to eye, on many things but its how we guide and develop our kids is whats the prize. we are at a point where we have no more scheduled mediation appointments (maybe one or two if things get disagreeable) and have a few things to wrap up in the finance department and it wil be all done.
I see the kids regularly and still am dad’s taxi as well as now the Dinner date with them :-)
some say how could that be..I say people lose focus on whats important..the kids didnt sign up for this..they are merely caught up in the middle..its not their fault..so why make thier lives miserable or ruined. its sad to see grown people fight like children themselves and not see beyond their actions.

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Naked Girl in a Dress February 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Eric,

I completely agree and am so happy I could be amicable, even friends, with my ex. It is best for all four of us.

What I have quickly learned is that this is not the norm and there are many men and women, years after divorce, still battling each other. Emotions run high and the kids continue to be damaged. As a result, I am overly cautious of who I date. If he doesn’t have a similar situation, I won’t date him. Makes it tough, but I didn’t go through it and I don’t want to do it vicariously through another.

It sounds like you are in a good place now. Good for you!

Thanks for visiting.

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S.C. Monaco June 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Words of affirmation! Not just random ones, but purposeful and honest. These words of inspiration, encouragement, empathy, and grace are food that can be fed on even when you are not around!
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I hope my children apply the lessons learned for the rest of their lives.

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Kim June 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

This is a great post. I agree that divorce doesn’t have to ruin the kids. What a wonderful parent you are that you went to the lengths you did to ensure they would be cared for in this way. I think another gift you can give your children is discipline. Obviously I mean healthy discipline. It’s so easy to be lazy as a parent, be inconsistent. But I think that when you continuously let your children misbehave ( I mean critical things not age-appropriate behaviour), you are accepting the unacceptable and set them up for failure as grown-ups.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I completely agree Kim; children without discipline don’t understand others have boundaries and that there are rules and expectations of them in life. I have watched with disastrous results as children with little guidance in childhood went into the world to find out their behavior was not acceptable outside their own home. It’s a tough lesson to learn later in life.

Thank you for stopping by!

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Jessica Anne June 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Great post. An amicable divorce is a great gift for your children. It’s wonderful that you are able to keep your children’s best interests in mind when going through such an emotional time.

I think working on my own issues and dealing with them is the greatest gift I’m giving to my children. Having a happy and healthy mother I hope will help them become happy and healthy women.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm

You make a wonderful point; I agree that happy and healthy parents help our children. It makes a difference in their lives.

Thank you for visiting!

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Kim at Let Me Start by Saying June 11, 2011 at 11:51 pm

The knowledge they they are safe and protected both physically and otherwise.
Laughter, every day.
An appreciation of the little things, like a random pretty flower, and the big things, like a talent that deserves to be fostered.
I’m so glad I came across this post today on TRDC linkup.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 12, 2011 at 7:20 am

Kim,

Thanks for adding to the list. These are wonderful additions! And thank you for visiting.

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Anastasia June 12, 2011 at 6:51 am

Hopefully the ability to have a sense of humor about things.

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Naked Girl in a Dress June 12, 2011 at 7:21 am

This is a great addition Anastasia. A sense of humor can be essential at difficult times; it helps you to not take everything so seriously.

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Victoria KP June 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

Children know when their parents aren’t happy in their marriage. I ran into a good friend from elementary school recently whose parents had stayed together “for the sake of the children”. It turned out that when they eventually divorced, it was a relief for the kids because they knew their parents had been miserable for so long.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm

As someone who grew up with divorced parents, I felt there wasn’t much worse for my kids than divorcing. I quickly realized how wrong I was. The kids are doing well and see happier and more relaxed. Seeing two really happy parents who are friends is much better than the alternative.

Thanks for the encouraging story you shared.

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Alice December 12, 2011 at 7:37 am

Great article. I think attention is so important, it kind of equals love, trust and even respect. Attention can be so powerful, even as adults we crave it.
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

Thanks for visiting Alice! Giving attention makes the person feel they are valued and important. It is essential to let someone know they are valued.

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Jester Queen May 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I have said this often. When the marriage is over, staying together is the worst possible choice. I was begging my parents to divorce from the age of 8. They finally did it years later. And they made it amicable. So much so that when I go to my Mom’s to celebrate the holidays, my Dad comes over, and for reasons I cannot fathom, we all have fun, where those same holidays were torture when I was younger. Making a clean, kind, break with the person you once loved is indeed a gift.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

“A clean, kind break.” That’s a great way to put it, JQ!

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