Tell Them You Love Them

As we close out this challenge, I’m going to touch on one of the most obvious ways to bond with your child. One of the most obvious ways to remind your child you love them is to actually tell them. Do not expect them to read in between the lines, use your words and say “I love you” to your children.

Over the last twenty-nine days, we have discussed how to bond with your child through many different ways from actions, empathy to treats. Amongst all of those things, we can be reminding our child they are loved by simply saying it.

Say it when they wake up, while you’re sharing a snack, before they go to bed and just because. Say it constantly, boldly and out loud. Tell your child you love them without abandon and often. Make it silly or serious – just make sure they hear it.

Telling your child you love them will always put a smile on their face. It will remind them of just how special they are and that you are thinking of them.

We have established how busy our days are, but they’re never too busy to spread love. They’re never too busy to utter three simple words that could change our child’s day from sad to super. Make telling your child you love them a habit that never gets old!

Be Empathetic

If you’ve never been in a hurricane, never walked up on your house half under water, you don’t know what it must feel like to see that sort of destruction. If you’ve never lost a loved one, you don’t know the feeling of the heartbreaking pain associated with grief. If you’ve never struggled with infertility, you don’t know the emptiness and longing.

Although you don’t know the feelings of the situations above, you still have the ability to empathize with them. You have the ability to imagine what it’s like and how it feels. You have the ability to act in such a way it appears you do in fact understand them.

We need to implement this skill with our children to help them feel supported. There will be many times we do not understand the feelings our children are feeling. We don’t quite understand why the broken cookie is making them sob, but we can empathize. We can explain how we are sad when things break, too. A broken cookie is such a simple example, but we will need to employ our empathy skills over and over again as our children grow.

Empathy is a skill learned through experience. When we are empathetic to our children, they will learn to be empathetic to others. When we are empathetic with our children, we are bonding by sharing a mutual understanding of feelings. When we feel understood by someone, we will naturally grow closer to them.

Showing our children empathy should be a daily task from the little things to the big situations. Be a daily support to your child by recognizing their feelings and showing empathy.

Don’t Take Their Words and Actions Personally

Children are some of the most difficult people on the planet to deal with. I’m sure of it. I fully understand they are trying to navigate life and learn what it all means, but they certainly can be frustrating at times.

Their outbursts, attitude and tantrums can often leave us feeling defeated and wanting to pull our hair out. We’ve all been there. No mom, dad or caretaker is immune. It’s almost as if it is a rite of passage we must endure to make it on the other side of parenting.

It’s difficult to not take it personally at times. You’re investing such time, energy and love into your children and you know they’re capable of respect and kindness. When they fail to exhibit it, it feels like a personal attack on all that you’ve worked on, for.

Please know, it’s not!

Children are testing boundaries to learn where they fit in life. Their actions are not personal attacks on who you are or the parent you’ve been. Their words and actions are the result of the turmoil happening in their minds and bodies. They simply don’t have the capacity to deal with it all and sometimes that comes out in negative behaviors and words.

Especially with foster children who have experienced severe trauma, it is imperative we do not take their words and actions personally. Their worlds have quite literally been turned upside down and they’re lashing out has less to do with you and more to do with feeling totally out of control.

Bond with your child by not taking their words and actions personally. We don’t need to condone disrespect, but we can condone human emotion. It’s ok to have a conversation about how they’re feeling and the appropriate ways to deal with those feelings. It’s ok to tell them their actions or words were disrespectful and hurtful. It’s not ok to hold it against them and forget to offer grace.

I don’t remember what it was like to be a three-year old, but I do remember what it was like to be in high school. I remember saying and doing stupid things because I thought I could and it was one of the few ways I felt in control. I remember being disrespectful and I remember the grace my parents offered. Offer your child an olive branch of forgiveness, not taking their words and actions personally, and building a bond of of grace. 

Watch Your Language

You probably read this title and thought, “of course I watch my language around my children!”, but that’s not exactly what I mean. I’m not cautioning you from using profanity (although please don’t!). I’m cautioning you from using language and phrases that your children may misinterpret; language that could be damaging to their self-esteem.

For instance, in our home, we don’t use the phrase “gave you away” when speaking about adoption. To my children, that phrase implies their biological family did not want them and it carries a very negative association. I want my children to know they were deeply loved by their biological family and I certainly don’t want them to carry the burden of thinking they were discarded.

Likewise, it pains me when people will look at my troop of children and ask “are any of them your real kids?”. It’s almost as if people don’t know the word biological or don’t understand the magnitude of what they are saying in front of little ears. They are all my real kids! Although I did not birth them and they did not grow in my belly, they are my real kids. I woke up for 2am feedings, I cleaned skinned knees, I continue to worry about who they’ll be and what they’ll do in life – it doesn’t get much more real than that.

Often times, people don’t recognize the power of the words coming out of their mouths. I realize no harm is meant, but good intentions don’t lessen the blow of a poorly spoken word or question. Focus on the words you are saying and think twice before speaking about your children, even jokingly, especially in front of them.

Children may have little ears, but they are always listening. Even when you think you are being discreet, or even when those you are talking to know you’re kidding, your children are listening. Be respectful of their feelings and always speak kindly.

Bond with your child by never having to explain that you didn’t actually mean what you said. Show you respect them and their feelings by thinking before speaking.

Buy Them Something That’s Just Theirs

We remind our children numerous times a day to share and as adults we share often without thinking about. Even with that being true, we like to have things that are just ours. Items that have a special place in our heart because they belong solely to us. Our children are no different! Although we want them to grow into adults capable of sharing, we also want them to know that it’s ok to have items that belong solely to you.

Our children deserve the opportunity to own something that is just theirs. They deserve to know they are worthy of the responsibility of taking care of it and they are capable of taking care of it. When our children are young, this can look like a special doll, toy or book. As they age, this turns into more expensive items such as cell phones, various electronics and even a vehicle.

In the world of foster care and adoption, we often see children enter our homes with little more than the clothes on their back. When this happens to a three-month old, it is not as devastating because they simply can’t understand the concept of “mine”, but when it is a three-year old or thirteen year old, they are incredibly aware they have nothing with them. They are aware that the toys in this house are not theirs and their favorite blanket, doll or toy is nowhere to be found.

We can bond with our children by helping them embrace something that is strictly theirs. We can encourage them in loving, taking care of and responsibility. By buying our children something that is solely theirs, we are telling them we believe in them.

I am not a proponent of buying children everything they want. Children need to know they don’t get every toy they want and they have to work toward goals. However, I am a fan of surprising them with a gift as an expression of love. It doesn’t need to be something extravagant either! Buying your daughter her first diary and talking with her about how and when you write in your own journal will leave a far more lasting impression than candy every time you’re in the checkout line.

Bond with your children by surprising them with a special gift, spending time with them to appreciate and respect what it is.

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