The Best Insurance for Raising Safe and Happy Kids

by Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.

mom and son laughing togetherLove is more than a wonderful gift to give your children; it's also good insurance. Showing your love tells them they are worthy of love and respect and shapes their expectations of how others treat them.

A child who feels loved is less likely to look for love in the wrong places or from the wrong people. It's a documented fact that kids who feel loved don't accept affection from just anyone who offers it. They accept it from those who respect them and their boundaries.

Children who have an unwavering belief that they are lovable and worthwhile know they don't have to "earn" someone's love by doing something they don't want to do. On the other hand, children who are hungry for affection are more likely to believe they don't deserve to be loved and that love has a price tag.

So, telling our kids we love them every single day -- including those days when we question why we became parents -- is good insurance. It makes our kids less vulnerable to being exploited. It shows them that they are treasured and worth treasuring. It makes them feel cherished and special. And that's how we want them to feel when they go out the door.

Here are some examples of how to express your love and appreciation anytime, anywhere.

Things you can say:

  • I love you.
  • I am so lucky that you are mine.
  • I'm so proud of you.
  • You are very special to me.
  • I love spending time with you.

Things you can do:

Show your pleasure. Let your children know that parenting is something you enjoy, not a dreary chore that exhausts you. Take good care of yourself so that you have the time and energy to be the kind of parent you want to be.

Learn about your children. You are an important observer of your children's behavior and the person they turn to when they have questions and concerns. If you don't feel comfortable in this role, consider taking parenting classes.

Appreciate their special qualities. These include personality traits that make them good human beings, like kindness, intelligence or compassion for others. Appreciate how unique they are...just as they are.

Care about and get involved with their interests, whether it's school, baseball, ballet or other activities. The more they see your interest, the better they feel about themselves. Show up in your kids' lives as their number one fan!

Take time to listen to your children wholeheartedly, without distraction. Being listened to and understood is something all children want. Be a parent your kids can come to who listens, understands, and believes them. This kind of attention is worth its weight in gold.

Spend time one-on-one with your kids. Make a date, schedule it and don’t postpone it due to work or other demands in your life. Make this time a regular thing, rather than a special occurrence. Time invested now will bring major returns in the long run.

Celebrate your child. Look for creative ways to send the message that you feel like the luckiest parent in the world. Make a big deal of your kid, without spending a ton of money. The key is to find fun ways to share joy and laughter in your relationship and show how much you appreciate and cherish your child.

There are many ways to show your love and appreciation. Remember, the more you show, the happier and safer your children will be.

Paula Statman, M.S.S.W. is an internationally respected educator, speaker and award-winning author. Her practical, positive approach to raising safe and strong children has benefited hundreds of thousands of parents. Paula is a repeat guest on Oprah and the Today Show, has appeared on over 200 radio and television programs, and is featured in publications such as Parents, Child, Redbook, and USA Today.com. The founder and director KidWISE Institute, Paula lives in Oakland, California with her husband and daughter. Visit her web site for more information.

Copyright © Paula Statman. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.