Valentine's Day With Your Kids
On Valentine's Day, we recite, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." There are so many ways to tell our children we love them throughout the year. There is no limit to the love parents can have for their children, nor to the ways we can say "I love you" daily. And nothing builds a happy life more than the knowledge that one is loved as a child.
Unfortunately, some parents have difficulty showing love, which can have disastrous effects later in life. A child who grows up with criticism learns to criticize. That child feels pain and unloved and lacks self-esteem. When he grows up and becomes a parent, the cycle is repeated. How, then, can we show our children they are loved, not only on Valentine's Day but every day?
1. Be there
First and foremost, be there for your child. When their children get into trouble, I have seen so many parents say, "How could this happen? I worked three jobs to give him everything he wanted." Everything, that is, but time. Nobody on their deathbed ever said, "I wish I had worked more and spent less time with my family."
2. Share moments together.
That is one step above just being there. Dine with your child. The single greatest deterrent to drug abuse and delinquency has been proven to be sitting together at the dinner table. Ask your child what experiences he had during the day. "What was the best thing that happened today?" "What was your low point?". Keep an encouraging expression, and make your response positive. Then share your own highs and lows. Side benefit: Your child may decide to follow in your footsteps – or maybe not!
3. Snuggle up and read to or with your child.
If old enough, your child may enjoy reading the same book as you, then discussing it. The same goes for watching television. All TV is educational TV. The only question is, "What is it teaching?" Even poor programs viewed together can lead to discussions on right and wrong, morality and decision-making.
4. Be supportive.
When a child feels frustrated or unhappy, lend a sympathetic ear. "Tell me how you feel" is so much better than "What's wrong with you?". "I know how you feel" is equally wrong. And "Get a grip!" is awful.
5. Quit smoking
If you smoke, nothing says, "I love you and want to stick around and watch you grow up!" like resolving to quit and doing so. Hopefully, you stopped smoking during pregnancy, but I have seen new mothers nursing babies with cigarettes dangling from their mouths. The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), bronchitis, asthma and the risk of accidental fire all vastly diminish when there is no smoking in the home. And you'll be more likely to be around when your children have children. Set a good example regarding not only tobacco but drugs and alcohol.
6. Give your child a hug.
Noted philosopher Virginia Satir said, "Everyone needs a hug a day to feel loved and content with themselves. We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." I believe that. Hug your child, often.
7. Just say it!
"I love you" is so important to say to a child of any age, not just to a spouse. As Vicki Lansky, author of 101 Ways to Tell Your Child "I Love You" (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 1988) says, "Let your children know how special it is to be their parent by saying 'I love being your mom,' 'I love being your dad' or 'I love you for making my life wonderful'."
Happy Valentine's Day!