When I found out that I was pregnant with my second child—and then my third, fourth, and even fifth—I remember feeling an illogical, but very real sense of anxiety about my capacity to emotionally invest in an expanding family. Would there really be enough love to go around past the first child, and beyond, and beyond, and beyond?
As it turns out, lack of love has never been a problem. Love multiples and expands, I’ve learned, to fit the number of people you most want to share it with, no matter the size of your family.
That said, showing and expressing love do not always come as easily as feeling it, and in the busy-ness of caring for a family it’s easy to let some of those small things—the ones that matter most—slip.
In today’s post we’re going to focus on showing more love to those fascinating, frustrating small people who can need so much but give so much in return: our children.
Like the last two posts, my challenge to you today will be to commit to a small daily habit, a weekly activity, and a one-time event.
Build a Habit of Expressing Affection
Can you remember how wonderful, warm and right it felt to receive a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back or an “I love you” from your parents growing up? Conversely, if you grew up in a home where physical or verbal expressions of love were scarce, my guess is that you’ve always missed what you didn’t have.
Showing our children regular affection is one of the simplest ways to let them know they are loved. It doesn’t take a lot of time, it doesn’t cost a thing, and it matters more than you might realize. But it can also get lost, especially as kids grow and become less dependent on, and less engaged with, their parents.
So this month, I’d like you to think of ways you can incorporate brief, simple expressions of love into your daily life with your kids. For a toddler, this might be very natural and easy, but if you’re parenting a ‘tween or teen, it can be a lot more challenging!
If your child isn’t the huggy sort (or you aren’t!) consider other ways of showing physical affection. A quick pat on the back, side-shoulder squeeze, or even affectionate “punch” on the shoulder can be a fun, low-pressure way to connect with a less-touchy child.
And while “I love you” is always a valuable thing to say (no matter how much a child might resist it at times) there are other ways to verbally express affection, too. Some examples:
- “I’m proud of you.”
- “I love watching you play.”
- “I appreciate you.”
- “You’re so fun to hang out with.”
Little, sincere compliments—not empty praise—are a great way to express affection when “I love you” feels hard to say (or, as in our house, when it’s been said to death.)
Regularly—and Contentedly—Engage in Acts of Nurturing and Care
Here’s the ugly truth: parenting is full of mundane, monotonous tasks. But somebody has to fold that laundry, do the dishes, and prepare the meals, and while I do believe in teaching kids to pitch in and help around the house, the truth is that some of those jobs, sometimes, are going to fall to me.
What I’ve realized is when it comes to household tasks, I have a choice: I can either view them as something annoying and time-consuming that I grit my teeth and get through as quickly as possible…or I can see them as an important act of service to the people I love, and infuse them with care.
I have found that adding a little romance to those daily tasks really does help me perform them with a better attitude. Rather than watching me sigh my way through every load of laundry, I’d like my family to know that the household tasks I do for them (and that they are learning to do for us) matter, and that they are worth doing with love.
I’m not saying you have to dreamily fold each t-shirt like you’re in a 1950s fabric softener ad, but I do challenge you to take some time each week to focus on doing a task well and with a positive attitude. Viewing everything from making the spaghetti sauce to unloading the dishwasher as an act of love has really helped me move past those feelings of frustration and impatience and grow to actually enjoy housework (much of the time, anyway.)
Do Something That Shows Your Child You Understand Him
As parents, of course we love our kids. But do we know them? And even if we think we do, have we gone out of our way to show them?
Feeling understood and known is a crucial part of any relationship, and the parent-child relationship is no different. So this month I’d like to challenge you to find one way to show your child that you’re interested in his life, understand who he is…and like him!
- Buy two tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event she’d love—and go along!
- Actually play that video game he’s obsessed with. Just once! (Although, who knows? You may find you love it.)
- Ask her opinion on a news event…and really listen to what she says.
- Subscribe to his Spotify channel or let him create a Pandora station to listen to in the car
- Take her to a restaurant you usually reserve for date nights with your spouse. Kids love to go out one-on-one with their parents, and going somewhere special and grown-up is even more thrilling.
These are just some ideas to get you thinking. The key is to choose something personal that your unique child will enjoy.
This module is drawing to an end, and I know you have a lot more content to go in this class, so don’t worry if you can’t do all three activities this month.
But do think about the ways you’d like to incorporate the acts of love we discussed into your regular life. I promise, the way you feel – and your kids respond – will be more than worth it.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- How do you express affection to your kids? What is your favorite way to praise and compliment them?
- Is physical affection easy for you, or do you struggle to offer a hug to a smart-aleck tween? What do you think would happen if you committed to little acts of affection every day, even when it doesn’t come easily?
- Do you approach the household/family management tasks with dread or a little bit of romance? How would looking at them as a privilege change your perspective?
- Takes some time to plan an event to connect with each of your children in a meaningful way. Even if you can’t fit them all in this month, get them on the calendar!