You might consider yourself a genuinely caring mother, but do your kids think so?
As a mother, chances are you constantly worry about the safety and overall wellbeing of your children – you would go to the ends of the earth for them. Motherhood isn’t easy, but at the end of the day it’s a beautiful thing and well worth all the hardship that comes with it – because you love your children. And while you may think that the love you have for your kids is obvious, you may not be communicating it to them as well as you think.
Oftentimes, the way that we perceive ourselves as parents versus how our kids perceive us is completely different. Part of loving our children is knowing what love means to them. Are you speaking their language when it comes to love and affection? Read on for 5 secrets to communicating your love in ways that your children will understand.
Becoming More in Tune with Your Children’s Emotional Needs
1. Get to Know Your Child
How well do you really know your child? Part of being a parent is accepting the fact that whether you like it or not, there are just some things your child will never tell you, even if you have a great relationship with them. How many times have you heard the response, “Fine” after asking them how their day was at school? As mothers, we may get so tied up in trying to take care of our children that we lose focus on the details of their lives.
Take some time each day to sit down with them and have an engaging chat. You could ask them questions such as:
• What’s your favorite thing to do?
• What makes you happy?
• What scares you the most?
• What do look for in a friend?
You may think that you can predict their answers, but they just might surprise you. This simple exercise can help you discover things about your child that you probably didn’t know. The more you know about them, the more you’ll understand them (and let’s face it, we don’t always understand our children). This in turn will help you express your love in ways that they’re most receptive to.
2. Encourage Self-Expression
Meltdowns can be difficult to deal with, but you should welcome them nonetheless. Your child needs to learn to express their emotions; if left unprocessed, these raw feelings could begin to drive their behavior in unhealthy ways.
Although meltdowns are tough to stomach for any parent, be patient and try to discover the fear (or other emotions) that lies behind the anger. In time, your child will know that they can trust you with their emotions and will feel closer to you as a result. Just remember to control how you express your own emotions in front of your child – the way you react could dictate whether they feel comfortable coming to you with problems or fears in the future. Remember, you can always go scream into a pillow or cry a few tears later in solitude.
3. Pay Attention to How You Speak
Oftentimes, children pay more attention to how you say something instead of what you’re actually saying. As a mother, your words can have a lifelong effect on your children’s feelings and actions – whether you are disciplining, giving advice, or simply having a spontaneous chat.
Your message may be great, but your child may misinterpret it or might not hear it at all if your delivery is off. Yelling, snapping at them, or even making a disgusted, angry, or disappointed face might have a significant negative impact on them. If your child shares something upsetting with you – say they got a ‘D’ on their math test – curb your immediate reaction and think about how you want to respond first. Try to read their emotions to gauge how they’re feeling, and allow that to guide your response. If they already seem upset and frustrated by their poor grade, try to validate their feelings of frustration and focus on a solution instead of dwelling on their poor performance.
Rather than yell at your child or immediately punish them – which will likely trigger them to shut down emotionally, acknowledge their poor performance but emphasize the fact that you know that they would like to do better. This approach will communicate that you care about them, that you’re on their team, and you’ll find a solution together. Remember, when you know your child and take the time to read their cues, you’ll become better at communicating with them in a way that they will understand and that they will perceive as love.
4. Support and Empathy
Part of loving your children is being emotionally supportive, which involves different practices. These include:
• Listening with intent. Pay attention and give your child time when he or she is expressing their emotions or telling you a story. This shows respect for their thoughts and feelings and boosts their confidence.
• Being consistent. If you say you’ll do something, follow through. If you have a routine with your child, stick to that routine. Is Thursday night movie night? Put it in your calendar and don’t schedule anything else for Thursday evenings. Did you say you’d make it to their soccer game on Saturday? Make it a priority to show up. This helps your child know that they can count on you.
As an adult, have you ever had a conversation with a loved one that made you wish that they could see things from your point of view or understand your feelings? Essentially, you’re asking for empathy. Your children require the same of you.
5. Show Up
Children need to know that they’re a priority. Whether you’re working in the corporate world or a work-at-home mom, one of the most important things you can do for your children is to show up. The basketball games, school plays, and even one-on-one quality time – if your children remember nothing else, they will definitely remember that you were there for them. You may not be able to do it every time, but don’t make the mistake of being half-present throughout their childhood – your absence is one trend that they’re sure to take note of.
Loving Your Children Through Their Eyes
Everyone gives, receives, and recognizes love in different ways – especially children. Take the time to get to know and understand your children. They will notice. Who knows, they might just surprise you in the best way.