Although you might give your Valentine a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers on February 14, love needn’t cost a thing and every day is an opportunity to show your child how much you care.
Loving words and actions help to build your child’s confidence, self-esteem, resilience and social-emotional skills. Your affection provides comfort in times of need, and being loved helps your little one feel secure and safe as they learn, grow and explore.
All in all, Raising Children explains that, ‘Loving relationships with parents and carers are critical in early childhood development,’ and research tells us that parental affection has life-long benefits for children’s happiness and success.
With all this in mind, here is our take on how to show love to your children in four different ways:
- Show love with physical affection
From the moment you first hold your newborn, skin-to-skin contact helps you bond in a loving way, and through all the years, touch connects the two of you, both physically and emotionally. Rocking, cuddling, kissing, hand-holding, piggy-back rides and high-fives are all ways to show you care, and whether you’re stroking your baby’s hand, giving your toddler a tuck-in, or hugging your preschooler goodbye, these kinds of heartfelt actions make your child feel loved.
- Show love by expressing interest in your child
“Look at me, Mum. Look at me Dad!” Such a common catchphrase amongst children, and you can show your love by doing just that. Raising Children explains that smiling, making eye contact, and using caring facial expressions all helps to, ‘Show delight in your child and warmth in your relationship,’ and you can show your love by responding to them in genuine ways. For example:
- Smiling as they whiz down the slide
- Focusing on that story they’re telling you
- Praising kids when they do a good job
- Expressing sympathy for a grazed knee
- Looking at your child instead of your phone, and
- Exuding real excitement when you pick them up from child care.
- Show love by spending quality time and sharing special moments
Kids learn through play, and fun interactions with Mum or Dad make your child feel important and loved. Playing ‘Peek-a-boo,’ or pretending to be a ‘Kissing Monster’ are two ways to build trust and have a giggle, and you can get creative with made-up games or make-believe worlds.
Actions speak louder than words and you also show your love when you take the time to teach your child new skills, follow their interests, and share in activities they like (e.g. you might catch a ferry with your transport buff, play games with them or watch their favourite cartoon with them). Special routines and family traditions also make your child feel included and loved, and storytime is a great example of this.
Cuddling up and reading together every day (or night) encourages your child’s curiosity, imagination and early literacy skills, and titles like Big Love, Guess How Much I Love You and Counting Kisses are good examples of books to read that are full of love language.
If you have multiple children, it’s important to spend quality one-on-one time with each of them now and again, to build healthier relationships with all your children and encourage their self worth. You can also think about ways to share the love with your extended family, whether this means a weekly video call or an annual holiday.
- Show love by using loving words
The most obvious way to vocalise your love is to say, “I love you,” and although this phrase means a lot, you can also tell your child how you feel with small gestures such as:
- Celebrating their successes (e.g. when they learn to skip or hop)
- Offering encouragement (e.g. if they’re struggling or lack confidence with something or have grand plans for their future life)
- Giving specific praise (e.g. if they share their toys well), and
- Supporting them in challenging times (e.g. when they’re getting used to a new sibling or farewelling a family pet).
If your child is struggling with his confidence and self-esteem like when starting school, it’s also important to support your child. Model confidence, and encourage him that it’s normal to feel anxious, but the best thing he can do is to not focus on it, instead focus on making new friends and having new experiences.
You also show love by listening to your child and valuing their needs, wants and ideas; and it’s worth remembering that written words also say a lot (e.g. you might slip an ‘I [heart] U’ message into your child’s lunchbox on the first day of preschool). At the end of the day, there are lots of ways to show your love, and actions that come from the heart set your child on a happy path. Hugs and kisses, smiles and giggles, warm words and strong connections are the gifts that keep on giving, and what your child needs now is love, sweet, love!