As parents, we spend so much of our time and energy agonizing over what is best for our children. Before they are born we spend countless hours researching the best baby cribs, monitors and toys. As they grow, we strive to find the best daycares, schools and extra-curricular activities. Along the way it’s easy to neglect the one thing we have the most control over. The one thing our children need most from us.
Love. Children need to feel loved.
The need for love doesn’t change as they grow, but in the busy world of parenting how we show it often does.
Babies are easy to shower with love. We cuddle, hug and kiss them. We make them giggle and laugh but as they grow things change. We shuffle our children from home to school to activities and back home again all while preparing meals, working and doing chores. It’s easy to whisper I love you at night and get back to the pile of laundry.
But children deserve more and we need to give them more.
I’ve spent many of my days rushing from one thing to the next. Sure my little ones were fed, bathed and engaged with fun activities but I was forgetting that I needed to stop and connect with them. I often felt more like a drill sergeant giving orders than a mother giving love.
So how do we make sure our children feel loved?
We start by filling their emotional cups.
The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman the author of The Five Love Languages share’s how to do just that in his book The Five Love Languages of Children. According to Chapman, every child has a primary love language but it’s still important that children feel love through all of the different languages.
Here’s how we can make our children feel loved.
1. Physical touch
Children need many meaningful touches every day. Touch includes everything from hugging and kissing to pats on the back and even tickles.
Look for ways to build in meaningful touches during the day – try cuddling your child during story time or giving your child a hug when picking them up from school or even celebrating big moments with high-fives.
Touch is especially important when your child is sick or hurt. So make that extra cuddle time a priority on the tough days.
2. Words of affirmation
Offer genuine praise for your child’s achievements, positive behaviours and attitudes to show your child you notice and appreciate them. If sharing is difficult for them, let them know how wonderful it was for them to share their special toy. Make the words meaningful and remember to watch your tone. Our tone communicates more than our words.
A word of caution – only give praise when it’s justified and true to make sure your children don’t come to expect praise for every little thing they do.
3. Quality time
Children crave and need our undivided attention. Giving them that in our busy world is tough but it’s worth the effort. I schedule one-on-one time with each of my girls every week and I can’t believe how much I look forward to our mommy/daughter dates. Our dates have included going out for hot chocolate, painting together and doing crafts. Quality time doesn’t have to be a big event either. I make sure to put my little ones to bed separately so I have time with them one-on-one before the day ends. Having dinner together is also a good place to start for quality family time.
Mom hack – give your child undivided attention before starting a task and you’ll find you can get more done with less interruptions.
Finally, a love language that sounds easy enough right? Before you pile your children in the car and head to the nearest Toys R Us think about this – gifts can never be a substitute for making your child feel genuinely loved.
Gifts should be symbols of love and used to mark something special. They don’t have to come from a store either. Rocks, flowers or hand-made items all qualify as gifts. To make the gift even more special, make sure to wrap it up so your child has the pleasure of not only receiving a gift but opening one too. As tempting as it is to go overboard with gifts don’t give in to passing desires or something you know isn’t good for your child. Read more about the the best toys for kids.
Another word of caution – using gifts as bribes or for getting your child to do something isn’t going to help them feel the love.
5. Acts of service
Being a parent is already constantly providing acts of services and if you’re not careful burnout, anger and resentment can soon follow. Taking breaks, building an emotional support network, getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well are all musts. Remember acts of service only count if they are done out of love. So make your child their favourite food for dinner, or fix their broken toy but do it with love.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” – Stephen Covey
We can drain our children’s cup just a easily as we fill it by letting anger, distraction and the urgent get the better of us. So as we fill our children’s emotional cups with love let’s fill ours too.
- Asking for help when you need it.
- Saying no to too much. Too many activities, too many things, too many obligations. Read more about the burden of too much.
- Filling your soul by doing something you love and that makes you happy.
I lost myself doing too much on my own without stopping for a moment to ask for help or often to even take a proper break. Writing, working and exercising have all helped me create the balance I so desperately needed. Now I have more to give my children than marching orders and the results are remarkable. This week I’ve been focusing on providing more physical touch and my four-year-old is already asking for extra cuddle time with mom. Yesterday, she even said “I love you Mom” out of the blue several times. Children have a way of sensing our emotions and they respond accordingly.
As an added bonus, by showing our children love in all of the different languages we show them how to love others too. So when they have relationships of their own one day they will know how to give and receive love. As parents, isn’t that what we want for them most of all?
Share with me how you make your child feel loved and the difference its made for you.
If you’d like to read more…