Love binds people together and allows us to feel secure, hopeful, and full of joy. We all benefit from love – both giving love and receiving love. But sometimes when life gets stressful, we feel rushed, and the anxiety and frustration are taking all our emotional energy, we can forget to allow the feelings of love to surround our hearts and lives as we should.
Last week I shared 10 creative ways to tell kids “I love you” (go here to read them) and this week I will share 10 ways to show kids you love them, minus the words. These are ideas I have compiled for myself… as I know I can get overwhelmed at times and forget that the little moments to share love are always available, easy to grab up, and worth the effort.
(1) Wake up with a sin-covering eye.
Did anyone else have a 4am wake-up? Or need to change the sheets in the middle of the night? When these things happen, I can start to feel resentment towards my reality as a mom. But if I forgive myself (and my kids), move on, and accept the challenge, I can parent with more love, patience, and joy, and I am sure my children feel more loved because of it. Starting the day with this sort of mindset allows me to receive and give love more fully.
(2) Eat meals together.
I’m often guilty of giving my kids their plates at the table while I grab a quick bite in the kitchen (which overlooks our dining table) before I take care of dishes, the next meal’s food prep, or some other odd job at the counter. But I always, always enjoy the meal more when I actually take the time to sit down with my children and eat with them. I know they enjoy it when we have our meals together, as well. It’s a simple way to be present with them and show them that they matter to me enough to leave everything on the back burner, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
(3) Use a soft tone.
To me having a soft tone includes not only our voice but our body language and facial expression, too. I am 100% convinced that using a soft tone makes a difference to our children and helps them feel our love. If you want to read an article about yelling at children – from a mom who has been there and learned better – visit Hands Free Mama’s beautiful piece called “The Important Thing About Yelling.”
(4) Have a sense of humor.
So often I feel like a drill sergeant in my home. “Eat your food, pick up those toys, put on your shoes.” I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of you. When I joke and make silly faces, play tickle games and simply laugh, my children relate to me so much differently. It can be hard, especially for one that sort of humor does not come naturally to and when you have a million other things on your mind, but I know the effort is worth it. Love flows through laughter.
(5) Listen attentively.
Sometimes when my kids are saying something, I either can’t understand them or was distracted and did not hear. There are times I just let it go, and I think that is fine… it’s probably impossible to get every single word. But I’m going to challenge myself to listen more, to listen better, and to ask if I don’t understand or hear something with more patience and attention. To stop mixing the batter and turn to face them, even when I’m in a rush. To stop loading the dishwasher for a minute so I can hear. I know I feel loved when someone listens with all their attention to me. So I’m pretty sure my kids will feel the same.
Now with this one I am not suggesting that we play with our children all the time. And I don’t even mean it necessarily has to be purely imaginative play where you have to pretend to be a princess all the time (or, in my case, a Transformer). But having a race to the car, using your index finger as a little character that gives directions, making the meal preparation into a “Cooking Show,” or turning instructions into a song can lighten the mood and bring some smiles. Children thrive on playing and when we can engage them in play, we are showing them we care about who they are and what they love.
(7) Get physical.
High fives, quick shoulder rubs, hugs, secret hand shakes. These little gestures go a long way in showing kids “I care about you and I am here for you” all without words.
(8) Make the environment lovable.
I notice that when I try to arrange our house to suit my children’s needs we all go through the day with more ease and happiness. For example, we make sure there is a stool for each child so that they can both use one when they need it, a flash light is beside the bed, cups of water are readily available, and favorite toys and books in accessible places. Just having the kids specific needs in mind (and recognizing when their preferences change) goes a long way in showing that they are important to me and that I love them. (This is especially important when traveling… realizing the children are out of their regular environment and may need some help adjusting to feel comfortable.)
(9) Don’t expect perfection.
When they fall, spill, knock things over, refuse to eat your home cooked meals, hit, and do other things that children will inevitably do, let’s not hold it against them. Let’s love them, guide them, give them a chance to make up for their mistake, and help them try to do better next time. When we expect perfection we do not accept our children for who they are, faults included. We should love ourselves and our children regardless of mistakes we make. The way we respond to mishaps or poor decisions creates the tone of our relationship which, we hope, will be loving now and in the future.
It can be so easy to just go through the cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and other duties with a “blah” face. I know because I have been there many a day. But when I just put some enthusiasm and joy into these activities simply by smiling I can see a positive affect on not only myself but my kids. If they can be assured that I enjoy what I’m doing because it’s out of love for them, then they will better feel my love throughout the day. I don’t think we need to pretend that everything is easy or enjoyable, but we can indeed choose to be joyful regardless of what we are going through in life.