9 WAYS TO SHOW YOUR CHILD LOVE
Kids need to feel love and sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re showing enough. Experts offer easy strategies to make a child feel more loved. The most fundamental gifts we can give our children are acceptance, stability, and most importantly, love. Showing love to your child can, at times, be complicated. There are small ways to express love to a child so they feel it, which can improve every aspect of their life.
“Love and security assures them that they don’t need to worry about adult-sized problems and it gives them the freedom to just be kids,” says Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author. “When kids feel secure and loved, they are free to focus on other things – like learning and creativity.”
LISTEN TO THEM
Your child wants to know they are important to you. A good way to do that is to make sure your child knows you’re interested in their thoughts. “Put down the electronics and show a genuine interest in what your kids have to say,” says Morin. “Talk to them, ask for their opinions about various real-world subjects, and demonstrate that their thoughts and ideas matter to you.”
HAVE FUN TOGETHER
There’s no need to make everything a learning activity or challenge. Find ways to simply have fun together. “Play games, be silly, and step into their world. Allow for unstructured time just to be together. This is the best way to bond with kids and show them that you value them enough to create time to spend together.
GIVE MORE HUGS
Saying “I love you” to your child is very important, but don’t underestimate the power physical touch has in reinforcing the loving bond with children at every age. “Especially for teenagers, that no longer come running asking for it, they still need the physical reassurance same as adults,” says Peg Sadie, a psychotherapist and self-care coach. “Make the effort to hug them each and every day as much as possible.”
Not the lovey-dovey type? You can still demonstrate your love with small gestures. Write notes and put it in their lunch. Offer praise. Give high fives. Say kind things about them in front of other people. “Your actions speak volumes about how much you care for them. They will feel loved when you do extra little things for them or when you say nice things about them.”
KEEP STRUCTURE IN THE HOME
Children thrive on consistency. “Maintain the child’s bedtime, mealtimes, wake-up time, homework schedule, and extra-curricular activities,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “The more stable your child’s life and routine the more he or she will feel secure and loved, and the less anxiety he will suffer.”
GIVE ATTENTION EQUALLY
Don’t compare children. Support all their talents and pursuits. If one child wants to play basketball and another wants to play the piano, show them that you value their individual interests. You can also spend time with a child doing an activity they love as they want to feel valued. Pay full attention to the child and ignore your cell phone during this period. They will really appreciate it.
FAMILY DYNAMICS MATTER
You may not realize that family dynamics are impacting your child but your kid’s environment can play a role in making them feel your love. Kids learn a lot about relationships by seeing how their parents interact. “Parents who show affection and love for each other teach kids how to treat family members,” says Morin. Being a good role model is important since your child watches everything you do.
MATERIAL THINGS DON’T EQUATE TO LOVE
It may sound cliché, but kids really do prefer your presence rather than your presents. Morin urges parents to think back to their own childhoods and consider what they remember most. “You’ll likely recall doing fun activities with your parents,” says Morin. “And you probably don’t remember what you got for your birthday when you were 10. With that in mind, it’s important to think about the life lessons you want your kids to learn and the type of memories you want to create with them.”
SUPPORT YOUR CHILD, EVEN WHEN THEY SLIPUP
Children need to know they are loved even if they make a mistake. “Be their support,” says Laura Gerak, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Hospital. Express that you’re proud of them for taking responsibility and then use it as a learning opportunity for the future. Dr. Gerak suggests parents discuss the situation and pose these questions: What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?
“This gives them the message they aren’t always going to be perfect, no one is, but that you have faith they will figure it out and they are competent to manage this,” says Dr. Gerak. At the same time, you are also building their confidence since you are helping them find ways to fix their mistakes rather than stepping in for them. A double win!