Parenting is an important responsibility. The ways in which parents show their children love and acceptance can have a significant impact on a child’s development of relationships with themselves, their family members, and their peers. Children who feel safe, cared for, and positively acknowledged by their parents have better social, emotional, and behavioral adjustments, even into adulthood.
Every culture has different methods of showing love, affection, and acceptance. In some cultural groups, parents show love by hugging and kissing or saying, “I love you.” In other cultural groups, parents express their love by supporting their children’s education or preparing special foods.
“Parents often forget that they show love and acceptance through having predictable and consistent routines and structure, like having consistent bedtime routines, consistent limits and boundaries for behavior, and consistent ways to connect like bedtime stories,” says DeeAnn Kittrell, Clinical Supervisor of the Early Childhood Program at Diversus Health.
Below, we discuss six suggestions for how parents can help their children to feel loved and accepted:
1. Say nice things about your child. Whether you say something nice about your child to them or others while your child is present, allow them to hear your kind words affirming their person. For example, “She was so kind to her younger brother today…” or “He went out of his way to help…” When your children hear you say positive comments about them, your words can build up their self-esteem.
2. Make it easy for your children to confide in you. As a parent, it is important to be conscious not to be judgmental toward your children, especially during adolescence. When you support your children and encourage them to share information voluntarily, without harsh consequences or criticism, they are more likely to build healthy communication habits with you and others.
3. Show your children that you are interested in the activities they enjoy. Parents who show a genuine interest in their children’s athletic events, musical performances, art shows, and school activities demonstrate that they care for and value the effort their children contribute to these accomplishments. Get to know your children’s friends and ask your kids to explain and involve you in other activities they like to do, such as playing their favorite video game with them.
4. Listen to your children’s thoughts and feelings. When you listen to your children, make the conscious effort to make eye contact with them or bend down to their level when speaking to them. This shows that they have your full attention and that you care about what they think, feel, and say. Consider your child’s thoughts and feelings when making decisions and responding to their needs. If they are in distress, hold their hand softly or hug them to show them that they are not alone and that it is okay to not be okay all the time.
5. Respond to your children’s needs. How you respond to your children will depend on their developmental stage. For example, you may respond by comforting your crying infant with soft humming, singing, or other soothing behaviors. Perhaps you allow your teen more freedom when they are striving for autonomy. Be sensitive to understanding you child’s needs and respond accordingly at various points in time.
6. Remember your commitments to your children. Following through on your promises is important to building a healthy and trusting relationship with them. Treat your children for good behavior or act on your word when you say you will do something nice for them.
Parents can demonstrate love in a variety of healthy ways that translate an understanding to children that they are safe, cared for, protected, and accepted. Consistent behaviors between parent and child relationships will reinforce expectations and prompt children to respond more favorably in different circumstances.
*If you or someone you love needs help building healthy relationships, request an appointment with one of our Diversus Health providers today. If you are in a crisis and need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.