Over the years, as a teacher, when parents have asked me what the one thing they can do to help their child is… it primarily comes down to love.
Yes, there are most definitely therapies and interventions needed for many children, as well as the basic day to day physical needs of each person, but the one thing every human needs (no matter their age) is love.
Often we just assume our children feel loved. We assume they know we would die for them and we somehow expect them to fully understand the sacrifice and work we do each day is often solely for them, to fulfil their needs, educate them and afford them a decent lifestyle. We are often so busy striving to give them what we never had that we don’t stop and realize that none of this is obvious to them. We need to love them in an obvious way and to speak about our love for them passionately and frequently.
As a teacher, I often say to overworked parents (who are feeling guilty) that they need to spend small chunks of real quality time with their children. Not long hours of distracted, half-attentive time. Aim for 10minutes a day but start with twice a week. If you have more than one child then you need to perhaps alternate days and swap over with your partner too. Ofcourse if you can do more than this, then that is fabulous.
Time… it is so precious and often so rare to truly have real time with one another. I always recommend the following: Find a time of day where you can be available fairly consistently (perhaps each evening after dinner) and are a little relaxed, dedicate a few minutes and tell your child that the next 10 (or however many) minutes are for them. Allow them to choose the activity (not TV or PlayStation etc, something where you can actually interact). Get down on the floor, climb into their world and just play. Talk to them openly, laugh and joke and relax. Leave your devices outside the room! This is critical. No one feels heard and important if your attention is on your phone/tablet/email. If your devices are all switched to silent and outside the room then they will not be a distraction to you. The outside world CAN wait 10minutes… I promise, no matter how important your role is at work, your role as a parent is greater.
When your time is up, let them know and although they will want to have more just remind them there will be more tomorrow. Pause the game, put a bookmark in the story and ask them to plan the next session. There will be days where you can do more than 10minutes and delight in that, but don’t feel guilty for the rest.
Something else we commonly overlook as parents is that we often tell our children we love them at very specific instances in their day. Usually when they are being kind, helpful or easy. Try, randomly, to tell your child you love them, regularly and out of the usual context. Call them from across the house and when they answer just shout back “I love you” etc. You would be amazed the effect this has on their mood and general confidence. It also starts to filter back from them to their siblings and back to you as a parent.
Each night as I kiss my daughter goodnight and she is lying in bed I list lots of random places I love her (different ones each night), e.g. “I love you when you are sleeping, I love you when you aren’t with me, I love you when you are at school, I love you when you brush your teeth, I love you when we are hugging, I love you when we eat lunch, I love you everywhere”. I am hoping that over time she will know that she is loved – all the time, wherever she is, wherever I am and wherever she goes in life.
Our love isn’t always obvious to our children and our adult actions are not always understood. They need our help to understand how much we really do love and appreciate them.
Until next time… have a love filled week.