We all love our kids. From the moment they are born we swear that we will do everything in our power to protect them and give them a good life. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to show your kids you love them other than by telling them so.
Unfortunately, our lives and our lived experiences can get in the way and we don’t always do the best we can by our kids.
There are a few things that we can do, every day, that will let our kids know that we love them, even if it isn’t that obvious to them.
#1 – Listen to them.
When my kids were growing up they and all of their friends spent a ton of time at our house. I always thought it was because of my amazing chocolate chip cookies but I have since learned that they liked to spend time there because I actually listened to them.
Our kids have a lot to say but we often don’t listen. We are so caught up in our own lives and our own assumptions about what they are saying that we don’t actually LISTEN to the words that come out of their mouths.
Yes, a lot of nothing can come out of our kid’s mouths but if you aren’t truly listening you could miss that little morsel, the thing that comes out that shouldn’t be ignored.
So put down your phone and listen to your kids. Today.
#2 – Let them be kids.
Remember when we were young? Our parents used to send us out the back door after breakfast and tell us not to come home until luncheon. We used to walk to school. We used to have play dates in the afternoon. We got dirty and made messes and had a whole lot of fun.
Today’s kids are over protected and over scheduled. As a result they are stressed out little versions of their parents. And they become stressed out adults soon after.
Give your kids some space and some time. Let them know what it is like to have nothing to do and time to fill. Let them bike to a friend’s house so they don’t live in fear. Let them scrape their knee and get up and keep on playing.
Being an adult is really hard. Let them be kids for as long as you can.
#3 – Be the grown up.
One thing I see more than anything in my work is parents who act like children around their children.
What do I mean by this?
I have a client whose child is very difficult. She is rude and acts out and is generally very hard to be around. Instead of understanding that her child is really struggling in the world, my client takes her child’s behavior personally. Instead of recognizing, with her adult brain, that her child is struggling and needs her support, she snaps back in the same way she was just snapped at.
All of this snapping just makes the situation worse. And her child has learned that she can’t rely on her mother to help or support her in any way.
Imagine if, instead, my client was able to react to her daughter’s behavior in a less personal manner. If she stayed calm and empathized and listened and hugged. Instead of ratcheting up her daughter’s behavior, she was able to soothe it and calm her. How much better would that be for everyone?
So be the grown up. Know that your child is young and inexperienced and needs a guiding hand. The guiding hand of their parent.
#4 – Embrace your kids’ dreams.
Soon after I graduated from college my father took me shopping for job interview clothing. We bought a fabulous suit (this was the 80’s) and then went out for lunch.
Halfway through our bottle of wine, I was prattling on about the dream I had about my life. The exciting things that I would do. I was young and the world was my oyster.
What did my dad say in response to my dreams? I think you are going to have a really average life. That is what my dad said.
35 years later I still remember what he said that day. And I would be lying if what he said doesn’t reverberate in my head with every new life choice I make, if the words that my father said to me didn’t affect my belief in myself.
So embrace your kids’ dreams. Even if they seem out of reach to your adult mind, encourage them to dream. To want to make the most out of their life. Knowing they have their parents support is the best motivator any kid could have.
#5 – Make your kids the priority.
One thing that my kids know, and have always known, is that if they need me I will move heaven and earth to be there for them.
At times making them a priority has interfered with my life. I stayed home with them instead of pursuing a career so that they would always know I would be there for them. I neglected my marriage so that I could be there for them. I have walked away from men who weren’t a good fit with my kids for them.
But I know that in this scary, scary world my kids know, to their very core, that they have one person they can always rely on to be there for them. And as a result they feel safe.
What a gift that is. To always feel safe.
Of course you love your kids. Even the most absent parent still loves their kids. But the single most important, most formative relationship one has in one’s life is the relationship with a parent. Treat it that way.
So show you kids your love them in more ways than one. Listen to them, let them be kids, support them and prioritize them. If you do so you will set them up to be happy, healthy, well adjusted and fully loved grown ups. And what a gift that will be.
Oh. One more thing. Buy them a bike. Every kid needs a bike….
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.