Lately I have been thinking about how vital it is that I convey to my children how important they are to me. In our busy lives with so much to accomplish, simple acts of showing our children they matter can get lost in the shuffle. We know we love our children, but sometimes we forget to express it.
As Dr. Neufeld explains in his Power to Parent DVD series, around four years old, children begin to realize Mommy and Daddy hold close what they hold dear. Feeling significant, mattering, being valued by those they are attached to becomes of the utmost importance to children. Thinking back on my childhood, I know I was special to my father when he’d unexpectedly tickle me, telling me he was going to put salt and pepper on me and eat me all up! I’d giggle and feel loved. Out of the blue, my mother would hug me and say, “I haven’t seen you all day!” even though I had been right under her feet as she did the housework. As a teen, the invitation to spend time with them was always there. These messages made me feel valued. I’m sure my parents weren’t conscious of the impact they had on me; they were just delighting in me being their child. But they endeared me to them; they made me want to stay close to them and do right by them. Those moments felt like free gifts – I didn’t need to achieve anything or work for their love; they showed their affection simply because of who I was, not for what I did. A child can rest in our love when they don’t feel they have to measure up, they can just be and are completely accepted for who they are. Developmentalist Carl Roger’s calls this unconditional positive regard. It is critical for healthy development of a child
According to research, the best way to deepen attachment is to convey warmth, enjoyment, and delight to be in our kid’s presence. Spending one-on-one time with each of our children is a great way to show them how special they are. Often we tend to believe the whole family should share activities together. Although this can be very nourishing to its members, my clients often report the family dynamics can cause more division than attachment. I encourage them to find special activities or one-on-on time that one parent and the child share. This is especially important when a parent is trying to restore a relationship that has become strained or when challenging behaviour is an issue.
As parents we will never create the perfect family. But we can become more conscious of our interactions with our children. That twinkle in our eye, our face lighting up when our child walks in the room, the warmth in our tone as we greet them, enjoying a moment or sharing a joke together… these gestures tell them they matter to us. Each child needs to know that we think we are the luckiest parent in the world to be blessed with the very child we always wanted.