Regardless if you have a feisty tantrum-throwing toddler who rips up everything in sight or a disgruntled teen who thinks you are annoying, all children are deserving of love, affection, and respect.
As parents, we must dish out love like it’s an infinite bowl of candy, and never hold back.
For some, giving love and affection comes easily. Oftentimes, these types of people were lucky to grow up in a household with loving authoritative guardians.
There are other parents, however, who grew up in harsh unloving environments. Sometimes it can be a struggle for these types of parents to show affection. At times, they may even wonder: How do I make my child feel loved?
Why is love and affection important for a child?
Love and affection make your children stronger. One of the key proven principles of child development is that more love and affection = stronger, healthier children. Less love and affection = more vulnerable, unconfident, socially inept children.
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Love and affection are just as important as food, shelter, and water. It builds a child’s foundation. There are literally thousands of studies that have confirmed that children with loving guardians fare better in every domain of competency and resiliency you could measure.
How does unconditional love help your child to succeed?
Love helps your child’s overall mental wellness. Love makes your child physically healthier. Love boosts your child’s brain development and memory. Love creates a stronger connection between parent and child. Love makes your child braver and more well-rounded.
Here are 20 ways to show your child you love them and how much they rock your world.
Wake your child happy
Studies show there are nine minutes during the day that have the most impact on a child:
- the first three minutes–right when they awake from their slumber
- the three minutes after they arrive home from daycare or school
- the last three minutes of the day–before they head off to sleep.
In the morning, even before I’ve had my coffee, I prime my toddler’s latest favorite Sesame Street YouTube video, The Summer Anthem song, and play it through her video monitor speaker as she’s waking up. I can see her jumping up and down and shrieking!
It literally makes my heart smile. As I dance into her room, I keep it playing on my phone, and we dance all the way downstairs and straight into the kitchen for breakfast (and mom’s trusty caffeine). At night, she get’s lots of snuggles and a book before bedtime.
With my stepson, he is not a morning person, and is often in a rush, so I opt to stay out of his way beyond saying “I love you” or shouting, “have a good day!” as he darts down the stairs. During the school year, however, I try to always have his favorite snack or drink with me as I wait for him after school. He is always appreciative, and it tends to soften his mood when he’s had a bad day.
Think of what would work best for your child and do it.
Look and listen
Look them in the eyes and listen to their words. Kids know when you are distracted and that makes them feel like they aren’t important to you.
Focus on your kids and they will bask in your attention! When your child wants to talk to you (especially your teen), stop what you’re doing and give your kid full eye contact and attention.
Ask questions that shows you’re truly engaged and present. If you can’t stop what you are doing in that second, tell them. Ask your child to give you a sec to finish up what you’re doing, then be sure to check back in with him.
Spend one-on-one time together
Even just 10 minutes a day is great. With toddlers and young ones, it’s easy…they always want to be near mom and dad. With your older ones, time is of the essence. Let your kiddo decide what you do together and, if you can, turn off your phone. All those dings and pings can be distracting.
One of my favorite things to do with my budding teen is going on special “date nights” to local hockey games, gaming centers like Dave and Busters, or even to the local Olive Garden. Heck, sometimes just a simple evening in the backyard eating take-out and playing poker hugs the heart (and tummy) in a major way.
If all you ask is “How was school?” your conversation is going to end rather quickly. Use open-ended questions that show you’re interested in what’s going on in your child’s life. For example, ask them what they learned today, how did they do on their vocab test, what happened on their favorite Netflix series, or for the tots, what songs did you sing today?
Create fun traditions
It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, it’s just about creating lasting memories. Once a month take your kid out on an ice cream date after school. Go explore a new park or library every Thursday. Make french toast for your family on Sundays. Simple traditions can help develop special connections with your child.
Show your love
Whether it’s with kisses, hugs, or cuddles, show your child how much they mean to you. If you’re not a touchy-feely family, use a code word or some other gesture of affection.
When I was a little girl, my mom and I had a code word that we would say when we were craving one another’s attention or affection. We’d shout, “nonnie nonnies!” (don’t ask me how we came up with that. I later learned its slang for Grandma in Italian) When I used it, my mom would scoop me up and cuddle with me on the couch.
I know this sounds kind of weird, but it worked for us. We don’t use it anymore, but sometimes I like to shout it out randomly in the middle of a conversation just to throw my mom off.
Embrace what your kids love
Is Minecraft or the newest Bratz doll really all that thrilling? No, but if your kids are in love it, sharing in that love is an awesome way to show they are important to you.
Hear them out and be enthusiastic as they explain how they designed their macaroni necklace in preschool or how they beat a tribe of gamers during their latest battle royale in Fortnite.
Embracing your children’s passions helps them feel supported and shows them that they are important enough to dedicate your dear time with them.
Learn your child’s love language
According to Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell, authors of The Five Love Languages of Children, there are five distinct love languages. These love languages range from physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Some children crave cuddles, exclusive bonding time, and rough-housing (yes, mainly the boys on that one), while others may crave kudos, compliments, and a daily “I love you.”
You can be working hard to express your love to your child, but if they speak a different “love language” than what you exhibit they might not be soaking in all that love you’re trying so hard to share.
Let your child express herself
In my early childhood, I was the quiet quirky kid. I had a vivid imagination, I was always writing or doodling, and for the longest time I believed my teddy bear had real feelings. My parents didn’t condemn me or try to push me out of my shell. They let me be who I was.
Whether your son enjoys wearing nail polish, or you have a daughter who only wants to wear black clothing, let them express themselves. We are all unique individuals and we should be raising our children as such.
Don’t get caught up on mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we’re learning. Help your child see that this is just a fact of life and the important thing is to learn from the mistakes, not obsess over them.
By exhibiting loads of love and affection towards your child, you are helping to build their confidence, which helps to build resiliency.
Thank your child
When your child cleans up his mess, thank him. When your child runs down the stairs to help you bring up the groceries, show your appreciation. Although, our children may still seem like mini immature versions of yourself, they still need the kudos and validation as much as us big kids.
Seek out your child’s opinion
When you ask someone for their opinion, it makes them feel important and respected. Well, this same thing goes for children. We are always dictating everything for our children. Let them share their thoughts too. This doesn’t go to say that your kiddo gets to rule the house, it means that you are just considering their feelings.
Surprise your child
Take them out for ice cream after school. Leave a little love letter in their lunch bag. Check out a cool new book at the library for the two of you to read that evening. Have an impromptu picnic in the park complete with their favorite snacks and outdoor toys. Brighten their day up a bit with a surprise gesture, they will love you more for it. And, it’s often those one-of-a-kind days that stick out in your childhood memories.
Compliment your child
Let him how well he did at picking up their toys and school papers from his bedroom floor. Tell her what a beautiful job she did on frosting the birthday cupcakes for the fundraiser. Compliment your child, especially in front of other friends and family, not only are you helping your child feel loved and appreciated, your building up… yes…their self-confidence!
Positive reinforcement can also help condition a child to repeat the praised behavior.
Show up at important events
Hearing you cheer in the stands when they make that jump shot in their basketball tournament or your thumbs-up from the second row of their dance recital means the world to your child. Your child wants to show you what they learned. They want to impress you. They want you to be proud of them. They are constantly seeking your validation. Give it to them. It costs nothing.
Encourage your child
To help build your child’s self-esteem, they need lots of encouragement. A positive sense of self is one of the most wonderful gifts to give your child. When they are scared, nervous, or feeling down, help them get through it. Be their biggest cheerleader. Share words of encouragement.
When you use encouraging words, this can have a lasting positive effect on your child.
Display their artwork, certificates, and medals
How good do you feel when you see your hard-earned diploma, certificate, or award on the wall or your desk? Damn good, right?
Well, it feels just the same for those littles. Show them that you honor their creativity, hard work, and efforts. Making a little room on the side of the fridge or hallway shelf sure goes a long way.
Follow through on promises
We know how it feels to be excited about something promised to us, then be super bummed when it doesn’t come to fruition. It sucks.
Well, it hits our kids hard too. If you promise them a Slurpee if they ace their spelling test, buy the Slurpee. If you promised your toddler a visit to the zoo if they stayed quiet while you were on a work call, follow through. If you promised your child you’d stop smoking, then figure it out and get it done.
If you can’t fulfil your promises, don’t make them. Broken promises can prove costly, especially with tweens and teens. If you regularly break your promise, your child may come to see you as untrustworthy, unpredictable, and unreliable.
Now, that’s not lovey-dovey at all.
Say “yes” instead of no
When you opt for yes instead of no, this reduces anxiety triggers or defiance. It also helps create opportunities to be creative or playful with your child.
Yes, there are times when you give in and give them exactly what their heart wants. However, this isn’t about that.
I’m not saying to give them everything they ask for, you just need to know how to respond to their request. You can literally say yes to everything, acknowledge your child’s feelings, and still get your way.
Son: “Can we go somewhere? I’m bored.”
Mom: “Yes, it is a pretty mellow day today. Let’s finish what we need to get done around the house before we make a plan to head out.”
Daughter: “Do I have to clean the dishes tonight? I’m so tired.”
Mom: “Yes, I bet you’re exhausted after your two-hour swim meet. Let me help you start by loading the dishwasher so you have less work to do.”
You’re validating your child’s thoughts and still letting them know you value their feelings.
Tell your child “I love you”
Now is always the perfect time to tell your child you love them. There is never a rhyme, reason, or just cause. It’s always now. You can never tell your child “I love you” too much. Now, get out there and share the love!