We all want our children to feel loved. And while there’s a place for grand declarations and glitzy celebrations, it’s the ordinary, everyday ways we show our love that matter most.
Children need at least one person in their life who thinks the sun rises and sets on them, someone who delights in their existence and loves them unconditionally.
Here are some super simple ways we can be that person. 22 ways we can show our love and help our children feel it, deeply and without doubt.
Listening when they speak…
You know the kind of listening that makes you feel like someone really cares and wants to hear what you’ve got to say. Now that feels good 🙂
And it doesn’t take much. Making eye contact, facing our children and leaving our phones alone. Let them bask in our undivided attention.
When we’re concentrating fully on what they’re saying, we’re less likely to interrupt. We notice small details we can follow up later and we ask more thoughtful questions, so they know we’re genuinely listening and we want to know more.
…And when they don’t.
Leaving space in our conversations feels strange, so used to rushing along, we’re uneasy with waiting and unsettled by silence. Yet we all need time to process our thoughts.
When we’re willing to stick around even in the gaps, we allow our children breathing space to falter and ponder. Sure of our continued presence and attention, they can think more clearly and share more deeply.
And when our children don’t want to talk at all, if we’re attentive and curious we’re better able to tune into their moods. And notice when they might need more of us, offering a hug, some company or whatever we think might help.
Accepting their emotions.
All of them.
It’s hard to see the ones we love in pain, or even just a little sad. And it can be tempting to jolly them along, hurrying them as fast as we can to ditch the ‘negative’ emotions and buck up baby.
Yet this can feel scary for our children. If we can’t cope with their emotions then they might internalise that fear, start to feel shame and guilt, burying and denying their feelings. Storing up a whole heap of heartache down the line.
But, instead we can be a safe space for our children. Allowing them to experience the full range of their feelings and supporting them in finding ways to express and release those emotions without harming themselves or others, in ways that are helpful and healing.
Sharing our struggles
And when we share some of our own struggles, not to burden them but in an open and honest way, we show them how much we trust them. And that can leave us all feeling a little less alone and a whole lot closer.
Spending time together.
Make it a priority to spend time together, building those bonds that will last a lifetime. Getting to know each other and staying in touch as our lives change and our children grow.
Quality one on one time working on a project, playing games or going for a walk. Letting our children take the lead and planning some activities for us to do together. Or just hanging out, sharing the same space but doing our own thing, company and comfort.
There are so many ways we can spend time together, plan it or wing it, whatever works for you 🙂
Collecting our children
And not just from football training or the station, although that’s super important too. This is about collecting our children emotionally, inviting them to to dance, the attachment dance (Neufeld and Matè 2004). Not strictly a dance although special handshakes and striking a pose can certainly play a role 🙂
Collecting our children is an important step in re-connecting when we’ve been apart. Separated physically by distance or sleep, or emotionally distant, after a row, wrapped up in own worlds, or just a little miffed with each other.
How we acknowledge and greet our children when we’re reunited matters. Genuinely enthusiastic and pleased to see them we collect our children by offering them something to hold onto. Literally with younger children, as we gather them in our arms or hold out our hands for them to hold. Or figuratively with older children, welcoming them with our words, our tone, our gestures and our attention.
Loving what they love.
Or at least taking an interest and making an effort. We might never fully understand what appeals to them about video games or Barbie or [insert here whatever it is you’re sure you’ll never get]. But there’s no hope if we never give it a chance.
Respecting their interests and showing a genuine desire to find out more deepens our connections and communicates our love. And you never know you might just find yourself enjoying a meander through Minecraft or hitching up your horse in Hyrule. And even if that never happens, think of all that gorgeous bonding time *contented sigh*
Supporting them in what they want to do
Finding ways to say yes, being on their side and keeping an open mind. Researching, gathering resources and being their ally. Offering to help and strewing stuff we think they might love.
So many ways we can support them to do what they want, in the moment and in the long-term.
Letting go of the plan
We’ve all got a long list of stuff we want to get done in a day. And sometimes we can’t just down tools and do whatever our children want. But mostly, at least more than we think, we probably can.
Stepping outside the schedule we’ve set up for ourselves, calling a halt to normal proceedings and pivoting our plans, that’s love all right. Much of what we decide we have to do today, might just wait with no trouble at all. But our children, they just keep on growing and one day, in what seems like a blink of the eye, they might just have upped and gone, if we weren’t paying attention that is 🙂
Make some magical memories and let’s enjoy them while we can.
Asking their opinion
Sensing our views matter, we feel loved and respected. So along with offering our children plenty of opportunities to choose, we can encourage them to share their views.
And not just because it’s respectful. It can also be jolly useful. Recognising the areas of our lives where our children have superior knowledge and skills, valuing their expertise and experience we can learn a lot, win-win all round.
Apologising when we’ve messed up
Being generous with our apologies shows how much we care, and gives us a chance to heal some of the harm we might’ve caused by messing up. And it’s a perfect opportunity to show some examples of how we might benefit from mistakes and how we can make amends.
Cracking open the baby books.
And retelling those, oh so familiar family stories, along with a new one now and then. Helping our children to see themselves as part of something bigger, and getting a sense of just how special that part is 🙂
Being willing to fetch and carry
Rather than just going through the motions of keeping house and caring for our families, we can seize the chance to serve others as a gift. Treating our children like honoured guests in our homes, like people we love and that we’re glad to help.
Fetching and carrying are tasks we’ll often do willingly for our partners and friends, but might be reluctant to do for our kids for fear of spoiling them. Don’t buy into that, spread a little kindness instead.
As parents, and especially as home edders we’re familiar with the academic benefits of reading aloud to young children – widening vocabulary, improving listening and comprehension skills, the list goes on and on.
Yet reading aloud is so much more than that. A chance to share in the excitement of a good story, snuggled up on the sofa, laying on the trampoline or listening from the loo – sometimes the story must go on 🙂
A bonding experience like no other, whatever their age. Not sure I’d have got round to War and Peace on my own but reading aloud with my well-into-her-late-teens daughter, total joy and something we’ll both remember forever, I’m sure.
Cheese and crackers, muffin platters and more
When our kids are busy, loving what they’re doing but we know they could do with a pick-me-up, rather than going all out on trying to drag them away and take a break, why not bring them some cheese and crackers or a muffin platter (aka monkey platters).
Or how about shaking up mealtimes now and again with something out of the ordinary, a picnic on the porch, a tv dinner or some full-on posh nosh at a formal dinner party.
And while we’re on the subject of food what says ‘I love you’ more than breakfast in bed 🙂
Being generous with our affection
Easy-peasy. Spread a little bit of love with a great big bear hug and make sure you’re the last one standing, let them pull away first.
Respecting their boundaries.
But when our children aren’t up for hugs and kisses, let them be. Not only respecting their right to say no, but actively encouraging it. Empowering our children to say no and creating a culture of consent in our homes are mighty powerful steps towards a more peaceful world for us all.
And sometimes it helps to expand the vocabulary of no. Offering random code-words, sausages in our house, leaves us in no doubt when they’ve had enough. ‘No’ can get a little over-used in the midst of water fights or rowdy play times and sausages offers a useful addition when they’re finding it hard to stop saying no but they want the fun to go on.
Allowing for change.
Sometimes we’re convinced that this is it. That this will go on and on. Yet change can happen in a moment, and looking back on our children’s lives, I’m sure most of us can point to phases we thought would never end, yet they did. With issues resolved, or just quietly fizzling out of focus.
When we get too invested in our own vision of what is, we block off possibilities. But laying off the labels and avoiding the tendency to think of our children in terms of what they always, never or should be doing, we allow them space to change and room to grow.
And this frees us up to appreciate what is and to welcome change as it comes, loving our children as the complex, evolving and messy marvels they are, just like us 🙂
Letting them be little
Growth and development are natural processes. Letting our children be little is an important part of supporting their development. And that development doesn’t always follow a a linear path, it might take many twists and turns and even double back on itself.
We don’t have to rush our children to reach the next milestone, or worry when they seem dead set on returning to places we thought they’d long since grown out of. It’s okay to meet their needs where they are, lavishing them with love and acceptance knowing that when the time is right, they’ll move on.
When we do our job of meeting genuine dependency needs, nature is free to do it’s job of promoting maturity. In the same way, we don’t have to make our children taller, we just have to give them food.
Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D and Gabor Maté, M.D
Laying off the judgement.
What we don’t do, can be just as powerful as what we do, in helping our children feel loved. Sometimes love looks like not saying anything. When our children make mistakes and mess up, we don’t need to wade in and make them feel worse.
Rules and requirements, rewards and punishments separate us from our children. Keeping an open mind and staying curious, wondering what they’ve got planned rather than assuming the worst, lets our children feel loved, not judged.
Telling them how much we love ’em.
More than yesterday, all the way to the moon and back a million times. Get creative and let them know how much they mean to us, how much we appreciate them, how special they are, in person, in notes, in rhyme if you fancy it, again and again 🙂
Asking them what makes them feel loved
How we feel about our kids isn’t as important as how they experience those feelings and how they regard the way we treat them.
We all experience love in our own way, so the best way to find out what helps our children feel loved… ask them and do more of that.
And just as I post this, I’m about to read The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. Maybe I should have read that first 🙂 Or maybe I’ll do a review later? I’d love to know if you’ve read that book and what you thought of it. And what ways you’ve found to help your children feel loved, let us know in the comments.
And if you enjoyed this post, you might like…
Reminders to be kinder : 7 fun ways to help you exercise those kindness muscles every single day (and be calmer and more patient too)
Happy week all x
Hayley, this is wonderful:). So many great ideas … We’ve had a lot of fun recently with the baby book one – there’s something about kids revisiting young photos of themselves and cards to them, etc that is so fun and affirming😃. I have read The 5 Love Languages of Children and definitely got a whole lot out of it, but it was quite a while back so I’d love a book review if you decide to do that. I also see a reference to the Neufeld and Maté book, “Hold onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers” and that was a game-changer for me. It was one of those books that spoke to all ages from infancy through teens, if I’m remembering correctly, and made so much sense of what I know of myself and was seeing in my kids. It didn’t take away from the richness of same-age friendships, but just clarified the anchoring role of parents. Loved it.
Thanks Erin. Totally agree about the Neufeld and Maté book, was thinking of reviewing that one too.
Love your description of the anchoring role of parents… like you read my mind as I wrote this weeks post 🙂