Love is Good Insurance
by Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.
Love is not only a wonderful gift to give your children. It’s good insurance. Here’s why: showing your love helps keep them safe. It tells them they are worthy of love and respect and shapes their expectations of how others should treat them.
For example, a child who feels loved will be less likely to look for love in the wrong places… from the wrong people. It’s a documented fact that kids who feel loved don’t accept affection from just anyone who offers it; they accept it from those who respect them and their personal boundaries.
Kids who have an unwavering belief that they are loveable and worthwhile know they don’t have to “earn” someone’s love by doing something they don’t want to do. On the other hand, kids who are hungry for affection are more likely to believe that they don’t deserve to be loved and that love has a price tag.
So, telling our kids we love them every single day —including those days when we question why we became parents — is good insurance. It makes our kids less vulnerable to being exploited. It shows them that they are treasured and worth treasuring. It makes them feel cherished and special. And that’s how we want them to feel when they go out in to the world.
Here are some examples of how to express your love and appreciation anytime, anywhere.
Things you can say:
- I love you.
- I am so lucky that you are mine.
- I’m so proud of you.
- You are very special to me.
- I love spending time with you.
Things you can do:
- Show your pleasure in being you son’s or daughter’s parent. Let your child know that parenting is something you enjoy, not a dreary chore that exhausts you. This means taking good care of yourself so that you have enough to give. It also means finding good support, so that you don’t become resentful about your responsibilities as a parent.
- Learn about your child. Nothing is more validating for a child than having a parent who understands him. You are an important observer of your child's behavior and the key person to help him deal with his questions and concerns. This might mean that you take parenting classes, so that you become “fluent” in your child and learn how to guide and support him.
- Appreciate their special qualities. This doesn’t necessarily refer to artistic or athletic ability. It also includes personality traits that make them good human beings, like kindness, intelligence or compassion for others. Appreciate what is within your child as well as what can be seen by the world.
- Care about and get involved with their interests, whether it's school, baseball, ballet or any other activity. The more they see your interest, the better they feel about themselves. Ask for time off work to attend events. Say ‘yes’ to volunteering. Show up in your kids’ lives as their number one fan!
- Take time to listen to your child wholeheartedly, without distraction. Being listened to and understood is something all children seek. It is also what sexual predators use to find their next victim; they look for children who feel lonely or misunderstood or believe they have no one to talk to. Posing as a special, caring friend, who is interested in every word the child has to say, they fill a gap in the child’s life that is often left by a parent. Make sure that you are a person your child comes to, who listens, understands, and believes him or her. Giving your child this kind of attention is worth its weight in gold.
- Invite him/her to spend time with you, just the two of you. Make a date, schedule it and don’t postpone it due to work or some other demand in your life. Make time with your child a regular thing, rather than a special occurrence. Time invested now will bring major returns in the long run.
- Celebrate your child. Look for creative ways to send the message that you feel like the luckiest parent in the world. Make a big deal of your kid, without spending a ton of money. Have a party “just because” or as a surprise, create a day devoted to your child’s whims and wishes. It can be as simple as putting a loving note in their backpack: “I’m thinking about you and can’t wait to hear about your day!” Expressing love and affection this way can take unlimited forms. The key is to find fun ways to share joy and laughter in your relationship and show how much you appreciate and cherish your child.