Whether your kids are toddlers or just about to head out the door for college, it’s never too late to remember that they crave attention and acceptance. Often we get too busy and distracted to put ourselves in their places and remember that they want these three simple things from us:
It’s easy to be in the same house, even the same room, but not really spend time together. Children thrive on one-on-one undivided attention. They want us to be present and look into their eyes. Not only does it make them feel loved and cherished, eye contact teaches them to do the same for others. Paying attention seems to be getting harder for many of us, with the constant distraction of phones and other devices, but awareness is an important first step. Put the phone aside and engage with your children. Time with you is a gift they will never out grow.
Kids need to know that parents love them just the way they are. This is especially true at home, since school time can be tough for some kids. Children want to know they don’t need to change in order to be accepted by you. They want to feel smart and special, whether or not they get good grades or make it onto the A team. Kids want reassurance that they are just where they are supposed to be, that you are there for them if they make mistakes, and you won’t judge them if they do. This is sometimes harder than it sounds, especially when our kids do things that alarm us, or make us fear for their futures. Make a conscious effort to correct less and connect more. Remember that little egos bruise easily and critical words are not easily forgotten. I try to let my kids know that they bring me joy without having to change or “achieve” in any way. Watch your words and let your children know that they are safe with you and can be themselves.
Traditions can range from an annual Easter egg hunt to Saturday night family movie night. Maybe it’s just family meals, nightly walks, game night marathons, or a special song you all sing together at bedtime. The predictability of traditions creates a safe atmosphere for children, offering stability and a foundation for family memories.
Traditions create intense happy memories for most kids. Often they are passed on to the next generation. The best part is the familiarity, the closeness, and the bonding family traditions create. I play songs at Christmas that my parents played for me over forty years ago. So, take that summer road trip each year. Return to a favorite spot every winter. Don’t get too busy or sidetracked to continue traditions. Try to create some daily, weekly, seasonal, and holiday family traditions. Your kids will cherish them.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve raised three kids and to me, these three elements make a big difference in a child’s life. After all, can a child ever have too much attention, love, or family time?