For most of us, having and being part of a family means that we are able to experience love unconditionally and completely. When we love our children, we love them for who they are, despite their shortcomings and faults. This kind of love is about making sacrifices, being supportive, giving to others and caring for their overall well-being.
The greatest thing that children will ever learn is to love and be loved in return. From the moment a child is born, a loving touch and human contact is an important factor that will influence how a child will thrive throughout his or her life.
Many studies have shown that warmth in the parent-child relationship is related to positive child outcomes. Children who experience loving parental relationships “…display higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication and fewer psychological and behaviour problems” (Cox, forthcoming).
They are also able to perform better academically and develop better coping mechanisms. “Parental warmth and affection are also positively related to adolescent academic competence and negatively related to teen pregnancy and associations with deviant peers” (Scaramella, 1998). Also “…parental warmth was found to encourage children’s use of social support and proactive, problem-focused coping styles” (McIntyre & Dusek, 1995).
Children who do not experience warmth and affection from their parents are likely to perceive the world as an unsafe, frightening place where no one is to be trusted. They may grow up with attachment difficulties and feel unable to connect to others and foster deeper levels of intimacy.
Children benefit not only from receiving expressions of love from parents, but also by witnessing warmth and a bond between their parents.
Licensed clinical social worker and outpatient therapist Amy Morin, LCSW suggests that it is very important for parents to show affection in front of their children. In her view, “despite kids’ protests that it’s gross, witnessing physical affection between their parents reassures them that their parents love one another. It also helps teach kids about love, marriage and affection which can prepare them for their future relationships.”
Be generous in demonstrating your love, but at the same time, know where to draw the line and when to lock the door. Light kisses and hugs are appropriate for public display, but keep other intimate behaviour private. “Be aware; there’s a difference between casual affection and sexual behaviour,” warns Dr. Cindy Bunin, a marriage and family therapist and child development specialist. “Going over the top will make your kids feel uncomfortable and confused. If the children see and hear love-making as a constant, they may think that that is what relationships are all about and may get involved prematurely in sexual relationships.”
Try to cuddle and read to them every night. If that is not possible, do it in the morning before you leave for work. Kids love for you to sit on the floor and build with them or create something with them. Take time every day to just sit with them and talk about how they spent their day. The important message is to convey that you enjoy being with them and that your time spent together is the highlight of your day.
Thank your children when they do something kind or good. Thank your spouse for small deeds of kindness. It is especially important that you do not take your nearest and dearest for granted as they may grow up thinking that gratitude is reserved only for strangers. Go ahead and prompt your kids to thank others for kindness or gifts too. A good question to pose is “What do you say when someone is nice to you?”
Slip little love notes, jokes, poems, and words of encouragement into your children’s lunchboxes, backpacks or next to their beds, just to let them know that they are on your mind all day long. Give her or him a hug for no reason. Create a secret word, sign, or gesture of affection that only you and your child share.
This article first appeared on Families For Life, and is republished with permission.
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