The Greeks have four words for love: eros, philia, agape, and storge – the name for the love and strong commitment between family members. I like the idea of having a special word for family love. As a parent, the affection I feel for my kids is limitless. I want them to grow up knowing that they are deeply loved. Each moment brings a new chance to say “I love you” - not just with words, but with deeds and actions.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. For some, it can be a daunting holiday filled with the pressure of grand gestures and elaborate showing of affection. However, there are simple ways that you can show your kids you love them any day of the year.
Here are a few ideas to get you started …
Hugs, kisses, chubby baby belly zrrrrrrrbrrrrts are all wonderful ways to shower your child with affection, and I do hope you are indulging in these as often as possible! However, today I would also like to encourage you to be mindful of small opportunities to be tender toward your kids. Give extra thought to how your touch affects your child when you are …
- brushing their hair
- cleaning their face
- getting them dressed, putting on their pajamas
- lifting them into their high chairs or booster seats
- tucking them into bed
It can be easy to overlook these chances to show affection as so many of the activities involved in the care of our children are repeated (and repeated) until we can go on “auto-pilot” doing them. Instead, let these moments become a chance to nurture your children. Make a conscious effort to perform these routine tasks with love.
This doesn’t just apply to babies and toddlers either. Big kids and teens need that connection, too – a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, a tussle of their hair, holding their hand: much can be conveyed through a simple gesture.
Just like grownups, children want to be reassured that you miss them when you are apart. Let them know that you are thinking of them when you are not together. If your child is the one going out of the home, send a memento with them: a note in their lunchbox, a funny picture of you together, a comic clipped from the morning newspaper. If you are the one leaving, bring back something for them. It doesn’t have to be fancy or cost you anything.
Here are some things our children have appreciated:
- a quick picture snapped by a cellphone camera of something fun from the day
- the free stickers they hand out at the grocery store
- a doodle you made for them
- an interesting leaf or pebble (we love heart-shaped stones at our house)
- a flower picked just for them
Let Them Help You
If your children want to help you with the housework or in the kitchen, let them. Include them in your every day tasks and be sure to thank them for their efforts. Yes, you can probably accomplish things faster without their help but faster isn’t the goal. Slow down, be patient, and don’t worry about things being done perfectly.
- let them help you fold the laundry
- prepare meals together
- my kids love to sweep the floor
- shovel snow, rake leaves, weed the garden together
Talk and share as you go about your tasks. Take advantage of these mundane chores and let them become opportunities to make memories. I have vivid mental images of laundry day growing up – from sorting the clothes with my mother to hanging them on the clothesline to dry. Every time I hang my own children’s clothing I think of my Mother.
Create for Them
Make something special just for your child. I love to knit for my children. With every stitch, a little piece of my heart goes into the tiny hat, sweater, or blanket. My sister sews clothing and toys for her children. But it doesn’t have to be an elaborate or time intensive project to make a child feel loved.
- Draw them a picture
- Write them a poem
- Build a tower with their blocks or set up a scene with their dolls for them to discover
- Cook their favorite meal
- Play with their food: cut a sandwich into a heart shape, make an orange smiley face
Sing to Them
Your kids don’t care what your voice sounds like. Anything you sing will be a melody to your child. We sing as we go about our days and the songs we sing are often just silly little ditties that only have meaning to us. Our family even has a song for running the dishwasher. Yes, we made up a song about our dishwasher.
My kids love it when we sing rounds together. But, don’t feel like you have to stick just to children’s songs or nursery rhymes. Sing your favorite songs to them – the Beatles, songs from church, songs your parents used to sing to you. Make up songs for them or change the words to an existing song and personalize it for your child.
One of my favorite ways to end a busy day is to sing to lullabies to my children as I’m tucking them into bed. Can you imagine how safe and wonderful it must feel to a child to be sung to as they drift off to sleep?
How will you say “I love you” to your kids today?