I'll never forget the time I first "got" the concept of unconditional love. I was about 12 years old, and I had spent most of the afternoon and evening lying to my parents about where I was and what I was doing. Finally, when it got to be about 9 p.m. and I realized that my friends weren't going to walk me home - like they'd promised - I called my mom and fessed up. She immediately came to pick me up, and I'll never forget what she said: "I may not always love what you do, but I'll always love you."
I don't even know what prompted her to use those exact words, but they've stuck with me for more than a quarter century, and it's a message that I intentionally try to convey to my own kids, as well.
But how do we do it in a way that they're sure to "get?" Here are some tips for showing unconditional love:
- Say it. When your kids get into trouble, remind them that you still love them.
- Seize the moment. When your kids are telling you about how someone else (at school, etc.) got into trouble, take the opportunity to remind them that there's nothing in the world they can do that would make you stop loving them.
- Demonstrate it. Avoid the temptation to act out emotionally when your kids get into trouble. When you have to enforce a consequence, do it calmly so that your kids don't make the false assumption that you don't love them when they cause difficulty or conflict.
- Show your affection. This is easy when our kids are little, but remember that older kids crave your reassuring hugs, too!
- Ask for their input. Talk to your kids about what makes them feel that they really matter to you. I just asked my 11-year-old this question, and the first answer that came to mind surprised me: "When you help me study." Our kids really do pay more attention to the little things we do for them than we realize!
As parents, our love for our kids is visible in a million different ways, from the everyday sacrifices we make, to the bigger, more obvious ways we express our feelings. As Valentine's Day approaches, take some time to consider not only how you show your love to your kids, but also how your kids most easily recognize it.
Note: This blog post was submitted to the All About Parenting Blog Carnival on simple ways to show your love, hosted by Katherine Lee, our Guide to School-Age Children.
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