Positive feelings have all kinds of health and learning benefits. Some neuroscientists believe the brain is more like a gland than a computer. You cannot separate a child’s cognitive self from their emotional being. Learning is more likely when a child has confidence in himself and a positive relationship with his parent/teacher.
As we come closer to Valentine’s Day, I have been thinking of all the many ways we can tell a child, “I love you!” Here are a few, mostly simple but important, ideas:
Be available. Sometimes our lives get crazy and we forget to simply “be there” for our kids.
Ask. Ask her about her feelings. Ask her about her day. Even if she gives a one-syllable answer, don’t forget to ask. If she doesn’t like to talk, give her paper and crayons to draw about her feelings or a little diary to write about her thoughts.
Listen. Don’t dismiss his feelings or opinion just because they are different from your own. Try to hear what he really means and really means. As a child, sometimes I was so frustrated that no one cared what I felt that I would write a letter and leave it in my Mom’s dresser.
Respect. Don’t ever do or say to a child what you would not like done to you. Even if you have to discipline her, do it fairly, quickly and humanely. This also means to “deal with the way you feel” and try never to respond to a child out of your own anger or frustration. It’s hard sometimes not to take things personally, but we have to act like caring adults and not lock horns with the little people in our lives.
Share your values. Let him know what you think is important in life. Involve him in your traditions and cultural practices. Share your favorite sayings. He may not hear you now but your words will linger in his heart.
Be a role model. Show her how to express appreciation and gratitude. Strive to be all you want her to strive to be. Sometimes it’s tempting to “live” through the accomplishments of our kids—but it means more when you are always trying to do your best. Especially, try to model resiliency. Show your child it doesn’t matter if you fall down—as long as you keep getting back up!
Experience beauty. Let him see the wonders of our world—a sunset, a tree, a garden, even a smile. Do you remember the first time you experienced the ocean or dinosaur bones or a live jazz band?
Support interests. Find out what she really likes to do or know about and find positive ways to let her explore and learn.
Encourage play and creativity. My mom used to save small boxes from grocery store items. When my daughter or her cousins came to visit, she would bring out the boxes and a big box of Elmer’s glue and let them stack and create to their heart’s content. Try to find ways to let your child safely engage in unstructured play. This includes physical play alone or with groups.
Relax. Give your child opportunities to be quiet—even lazy. Don’t structure every moment of every day. Make time to rest, reflect and renew.
Have fun! Laughter and humor has helped me through many hard times. Avoid sarcasm and put-downs, but try to find ways to laugh together everyday. It makes hearts happy and healthy!