Ways to remind your child they are loved
Making sure our children feel loved, safe, and happy are among our most important jobs as parents. While this was true before the pandemic, the difficulty that our children have encountered over the past year can make us feel like nurturing our children and embracing them—literally and metaphorically— has never been more crucial. Yet, with all of the external pressures on us as parents (including, but certainly not limited to, the fact that we have suddenly added the role of teacher to our daily repertoire and are often expected to be in multiple places at once), it can feel more challenging to meet the needs of our children.
Fortunately, showing our children love is uncomplicated. The things we say and the times we share, even the little moments, have a big payoff when it comes to our children’s emotional health. There are endless ways to communicate love every day, such as:
- Listen to them. Take time to hear about what they think, how they feel, what’s going on in their lives. Validate their feelings.
- Play with them or learn about their interests (even if it’s not your thing).
- Support them through difficulty and when they make mistakes. Forgive them. Cheer for them. Teach them.
- Provide structure and discipline. Giving children limits and boundaries communicates that you care.
- Give hugs and kisses and tell them that you love them.
There are also many things we can do on a daily basis for our children to promote mental health and wellness. We likely cannot do all of these things all of the time, and that is okay. This is not an all-or-nothing proposition — every little bit counts. So, do what you can, when you can.
Start with the basics. We want to ensure that our children are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, fresh air and finding time for fun every day. Provide structure and routine to the day—even though that routine may look different than it did before. We can help children prepare for challenges by identifying and practicing coping and relaxation strategies and teaching them problem-solving skills.
It is also important, especially during tough times, to keep an eye on our children and pay attention to changes in behavior. Signs of emotional distress can look different among children, but you know when your child’s behavior is different than usual. If your child is not acting like your child, this is a cue to check in and ask questions. Look for changes in mood or behavior that last more than a week or two, changes in sleep and appetite, a change in school performance and withdrawal from friends or activities.
When it comes to responding to worries and providing reassurance (a familiar reality during this pandemic), be honest. We want to try to answer questions and offer information in an age-appropriate way. Children usually want less information than we adults are prepared to give them, so take it slow and use care not to overwhelm — let their questions guide the conversation.
Acknowledge and validate feelings, like fear or sadness, and remind your children that you will come through this together. It is okay to not have all of the answers (do we ever?). Help your child focus on what is known and what is safe, secure and predictable in their environment. If you have examples of other obstacles you have overcome as a family (during the pandemic or before), use these to remind your child that they are strong and your family is strong.
Finally, when you need help, ask for help. This is good modeling for our children and, let’s face it, we all need extra help sometimes. If you have concerns about your child’s wellbeing, talk to their pediatrician or reach out to a mental health provider.