Have you considered the influence you have on the children in your life, the legacy you are establishing and the inheritance you will pass down? We tend to think of the inheritance we are leaving to others primarily in terms of property, material possessions, finances or bequests made in a will. But the legacy we create also includes the personal aspects of our lives. Our identity, the beliefs we profess, the values we live by, the priorities we establish, the choices we make, how we take care of our belongings and the way we treat others all form the essence of our unique character which is also part of our legacy. Each of these qualities has a powerful influence on the lives of those we love. It’s part of our footprint that will impact them long after we’re gone. Whether we realize it or not, as parents, grandparents, and influential adults in the lives of children, we begin building the legacy we will pass on to them the day they are born. And we continually shape that footprint each day of our lives. They watch how we live life and determine whether or not they will embrace the patterns we’ve set or choose their own course. They listen to what we teach them about what we believe in and what we deem as right and wrong. Even more so, they watch how we apply those teachings in our own lives. Our own personal character and integrity are powerful influences in the lives of our children and will be remembered for generations to come. They listen as we speak and watch as we react to life experiences, looking for congruency between our values and life choices. That consistency along with a sense of safety and security will be the basis for their trust in us. Are we clear about our principles of right and wrong? And do our lives reflect our values? Do we stand up for our beliefs in a positive way? Or, do we criticize, find fault, and condemn? How do we express our concerns? Are we building up or tearing down? Do we speak and conduct our lives in a way that draws others toward us? Do we honor and take care of ourselves? How are we managing our emotions? How do we respond to victory and what about defeat? As we look at our individual life, do we see a glass half-empty or one half-full? When we live authentic lives with character that’s based on God’s principles, the children in our lives—children of all ages—will be more likely to draw close to us. When they feel our love and respect for them, they’ll be more open to consider our values, respect our actions and understand our heart. When they trust us, they’ll be more apt to share life with us. When they see us model the approach to life we want for them, they’ll be more likely to consider our words of encouragement and counsel. If we seek God’s guidance and do all we can to live in a manner that honors Him and reflects His truths, we will create a legacy of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—fruits of His Spirit. When our children see us making wise decisions, managing life’s challenges effectively, living authentically and creating stability in our own lives, they will be more apt to seek our counsel or reflect on our lives as a positive reference when they face their own challenges. may not always make the same choices but they’ll have seeds of positive influence planted in their minds and hearts that can flow from generation to generation. We give many things to our children through the years. May we ask God to guide our minds and hearts and grant us wisdom, as we consider not just what we are doing for them but also what we are instilling in them through our words, our actions, and our gifts. May the legacies we pass on be ones that will be pleasing to God and helpful to the children we love—no matter what their age—as they embrace whatever their futures hold. Nancy Williams, LPC is a licensed counselor, life coach, speaker and writer. Send questions or comments to her at www.nancywilliams.net.

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