Although parents love their kids, they don’t always feel the love in a parenting moment. In fact, parents often feel irritation, upset, fear and distress in the midst of parenting. However, when the kids are asleep in bed, parents look at their angelic faces and feel a surge of affection and adoration. They really love them!
It is crucial for a child’s healthy development that he or she actually feels loved. It’s not enough that parents love their children – they have to successfully convey this love in order for the kids to benefit from it.
What are some effective ways for parents to show love and affection to their children? Consider these five tips:
Attend to Basic Needs
Meeting a child’s basic needs doesn’t in and of itself, make a child feel loved. However, neglecting such needs is a quick way to make a child feel unloved. Basic needs include things like keeping a tidy house (tidy enough – not compulsively tidy), serving good-tasting and nutritious meals, and providing appropriate, attractive and clean clothing). In order to meet the child’s needs, the CHILD needs to feel that the house is tidy enough, the food is good enough and the clothing is suitable and available. It’s usually easy enough to attend to a child’s basic needs in this way, but if there is some difficulty, don’t underestimate its potential impact. Failure to meet basic needs can leave life-long scars.
Provide a Home Where Love Abounds
Home is a place for the family to create positive memories — so make sure your home is conducive to happy ones! Minimize criticism and anger. Try to parent without raising your voice (read Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Give LOTS of positive feedback, use humor to lighten things up, listen empathically, offer treats and privileges generously and use positive methods of discipline. Take parenting courses in person or on-line to give yourself extra skills and options.
Be Generous With the Hugs and Kisses
Words are powerful, but so are non-verbal ways of expressing love and affection. So don’t be shy! Give your children a hug when they wake up, as they leave for school, upon coming home and as they get ready for bed. Kiss them when they are hurt, sick, happy or sad. Hugs and kisses are simple and free ways of communicating that you care. Pats, tickles and gentle touch are good at any time – as long as the child enjoys it. If the child is laughing when be tickled but saying “stop!” then the parent should stop immediately. Similarly, if the child finds touch pleasant – go for it, but if the child says “I don’t like it” then the parent has to refrain from this way of conveying love. There’s lots of other ways to give this message over.
Love Your Children Unconditionally
Newsflash: parenting can be a rocky terrain sometimes. There will be times when your children will hurt you, disappoint you, anger you and/or make you miserable. Take heart, mistakes and rebellion are parts of growing up. From bad choices, kids can become better people. What is important is that parents remain consistent in showing their love and affection. Remember, these are also the times when your kids need you the most. Be patient, go slowly, don’t try to educate your child when you are feeling very upset, shocked or enraged – wait until you’re calm enough to provide truly helpful guidance. This is a powerful way of showing love and one that your grownup child will recall forever with affection and appreciation.
Take an interest in what your child is doing: hobbies, talents, even weaknesses and problem areas. Helping a kid develop skills, address problems and experience success, are all signs of loving and caring. We’ve all read those biographies of outstanding persons in which they write, “my mother always believed in me, ” or “my father taught me everything I know” and so on. Whether it means hiring a tutor, signing up for classes, bringing books home from the library, or helping your child personally, every act of parental involvement is an act of love.
Work On Yourself and Your Marriage
Parents show love to their children by becoming the best they can be. When a child sees that a parent has an anger problem, drinking problem, weight problem, depression problem or any other personal challenge, AND sees that the parent works hard to overcome and heal the problem, the child experiences this as a form of caring. The opposite situation, in which a parent has an addiction issue, anger issue etc., and DOESN’T work hard to overcome it, is experienced as a form of neglect by the child. The child feels as if the parent doesn’t care enough about him or her in order to address serious challenges. The same dynamic is true of the parent’s marriage. When parents have a troubled marriage and DON’T go to marriage counseling or otherwise take steps to improve the situation, the child feels like the parents don’t care enough to make the home a better place. On the other hand, when parents work hard to overcome their relationship difficulties, children experience their effort as an act of love for the family.