10 ways to show your children you love them

We're busy. So busy, in fact, that sometimes we forget that our children need our love and support to be made known to them. While your clinging toddlers are turning into distant teenagers, it can be hard for some of us parents to find ways to show the kids we love them, support them, and are never too busy for them. Here is a list of 10 ways you can show your

XOXO

In preparing to write this article, I did a comprehensive survey of all three of the children in my house. The number one response was "hugs." Even my door-locking, text-messaging, knows-way-more-than-me oldest son said simply, "You give me a hug when I need one." The power of a well-placed hug can be worth 5 PS3 games and an unlimited text messaging plan. When your children are younger, you hug constantly. When they get older, hug them when it counts. It may seem simple, but after a raunchy power struggle about room cleaning, a hug might just remind your baby that you love them no matter what.

Save the Date

If you have one child, you probably take your chlid out to do special things on their own. If you have more than one child, you might not. Set a date with each of the kids on their own and take them out to do something that they really enjoy. Book it in advance with them so they have it to look forward to. This can be a picnic at the park or a rock concert. Whatever it is, make sure it is something that is specific to what they really like or want. And don't bring the other children along. They get their own date night. Nothing says love like your undivided attention.

Bon Appetit

The way to child's heart is through their stomach. Sit down and eat together. A family dinner can be really hard in our over-scheduled world. The precious moments spent at the table can't be replaced. Let the kids help you cook. Let one child pick the meal on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. Go to the school and eat with your child in their cafeteria. The look on their faces and getting to know their friends is completely worth the cafeteria food. Eating has to be done every day, multi-task; eat, laugh, and show your kids you love them.

Rules are made to be broken

So, the kids can't eat anywhere but the kitchen. They have to clean their room every day before they go outside to play or get on the computer to facebook. You can't have desert until you eat your vegetables. We all start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher at some point. Cut them some slack now and then. Have an opposite day and let them have dessert before dinner, skip cleaning their room, and everyone eats in the living room while they watch a kid movie on the big TV. Letting go of the silly rules that sometimes cause the most conflict between parents and families can go a long way to let them know what's really important to you.

Yahtzee!

Family game night may sound cliche, but have you ever tried it? My kids brag to their friends at school about family game night. Why? Because it's a blast and it makes kids feel like your world revolves around them for one night a week. Do they go outside and ride their bikes in the neighborhood every day, go out and teach them some tricks you learned when you were their age. Try out the skateboard and let them laugh at how bad you are at it. Invent games on rainy days. My personal favorite is paper airplane golf. Set up a bucket in every room in the house and tee off. Be creative, make the last hole the dishwasher or the doggy door. You need to relax, too. Relax with your kids.

Yackety Yack

Talk to your kids. Listen, you may think you talk to your kids every day. Do you really? Ask them about their day and their friends at school. Ask them their opinion on things that happen right at home or out in the world. Talk to them about what you do at your job or what you really like about your best friend. Tell them stories about when you were a kid and let them tell you a story that is similar. Conversations can go a long way in helping you understand your children and shape their values.

More importantly, talk to your kids when they don't necessarily want you to. You notice that they seem a little down after school. Ask them what's wrong. Don't settle for "nothing." They usually want to tell you, but are afraid of what you will think. If you can't get anything out of them, start guessing. This will either make them laugh or get them to finally tell you what happened. Start with "a big green dinosaur pooped on your school and some of it dribbled on your backpack?" and trickle down to "you and your best friend/girlfriend/bully at school got into an argument?" Remind them that you remember what it is like to be their age and mean it by remembering what it is like to be their age. Showing that you really do care can go a long way to saying "I love you."

Most importantly, talk to your kids about the important things. Talk to your kids about drugs, sex, violence, bullies, friends, peer pressure, etc. Talk early and talk often. Don't lecture and don't be uncomfortable. It will only make them tune you out. Talk openly and candidly about the things they're going to hear about from their friends any way. Make sure they have the right information from you and start a dialogue before they start to shut you out. Children as young as elementary school are using drugs and having sex. Face that reality and start talking. Make it age appropriate, but educate yourself on what age appropriate is. Start by asking questions to your kids and gauge what information they already have and what they may be curious about. Remind them that they can ask or tell you anything and mean it! Love isn't always easy or comfortable, do what you have to do.

The Art of the Family Meeting

Maybe you already have family meetings and maybe you don't. Usually family meetings are called in order to lecture in bulk or announce bad news. These are definately appropriate. Call some other ones as well. Did everyone bring home a great report card? Call a family meeting to announce the grades and give congratulations for hard work. Have you just not had any real family time lately? Call a family meeting to talk about ideas to make the famliy better. Get everyone's input and try out their ideas. And, at the end of every single one of those lecturing family meetings, give them a segment for lecturing you. That's right! No parent is perfect. Let them know you are open to suggestion. Make that time a time when they can tell you anything about how they feel about what YOU do without any repercussion. You might be very surprised what they have to say and you can do nothing but improve your parenting and your relationship with your kids.

Just Say NO, STOP THAT, YOU'RE GROUNDED!

You've probably heard it before, but kids want discipline. They feel more secure when there are rules and boundaries. They may moan and complain when it happens, but call them on it when they've done wrong. Love isn't about buying them everything they want or letting them do anything they want. Love is about trying to make your chlidren happy, successful, independent, well-adjusted adults. This means discipline. Refer back to Yackety Yack and explain why the child is being disiplined and then give them some XOXO, but stick to your guns. "Because I said so" doesn't work and "This hurts me more than it hurts you" is something they'll never buy. Explain the discipline. Why are you grounded for talking back? Because when you grow up and get a job, you will be fired for talking back. Because you have to learn to respect authority before you go out on your own. Because learning to compromise or accept other people's input will help you with every relationship you ever have. That IS really why you're doing it even if you think it's because they're getting on your last nerve or you're just sick of it! This doesn't just apply to older kids, be sure your toddler understands why they get in trouble for pouring out all of their shampoo.

Write it down

You may tell your children you love them every day before they leave for school, when they get home from school, when they go to bed, while you're playing horsey in the floor, all the time. But putting it in writing can really have an impact. I still have letters that my mother wrote to me when I was in junior high. If your babies are babies, use pictures or symbols to spell out your love. "Eye Heart (picture of your child" Use tub crayons or lipstick to leave them a note in the shower or on the mirror of the bathroom they brush their teeth in. They'll wake up to a special note from you and they won't be able to help smiling. My kids always write me something back. Kids are never too old for this.. even if they're in college. Write it out on the refrigerator magnet. Leave them notes in their lunch boxes or school folders for them to find while at school. Write them full letters expressing how you feel after an ugly argument with your teenager. Don't bring up the issue again, just speak your feelings and reinforce that you love them no matter what.

Put Them First

I'm sure many of you are saying, "Well, DUH!" But, are you really? Maybe you'll lay down and die for your child, but will you miss work to go to their school party? Will you miss American Idol to patch up a dolly's broken arm? Will you cancel your manicures or golf games to pay for save up for that thing they really, really, really want and you can't afford? Will you put their suggestions before your pride? Will you ignore your discomfort/anger/indignation to address the sext message you saw on his/her phone and talk to her/him about it rationally? We can get caught up in our own worlds, take a moment to really consider if you're putting them first. Then put them first. They'll see it and know they are loved.


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