When it comes to your children, do you sometimes feel like you’re throwing the phrase “I love you” out there so often that they’ve stopped actually hearing you? And also, how can those three little words possibly convey the enormity of our feelings for them?
But here’s the good news from experts - you can never say “I love you” too often!
Every child has a different love language (as we explored in depth a few months ago), but no matter their language of choice, words and acts of affirmation are always a good idea - and they cost nothing.
So if you trade “I love you”s on autopilot at the school drop-off and after bedtime kisses, don’t stop! In fact, consider upping your game. Surprise your child with some creativity, and watch as they get the message loud and clear, and new connections grow.
Change it up
The simplicity of “I love you” will never go out of style, but sometimes the message is clearer if you change the phrase up a bit. How about: “You are so loved”, “I love you from the tips of your toes to the top of your head”, “When I look at you my heart could burst with love”, or “I loved you from the first moment I saw you”. The possibilities are truly endless, and the wonderful thing about talking to our kids is that there’s no such thing as hyperbole - we can never express, let alone over-exaggerate, how we feel - so think of it as a blank canvas and go really crazy. Even if your effusiveness embarrasses them a bit, watch their eyes light up in response to the unexpected.
Write it down
There’s nothing quite like the written word to forge strong connection between parent and child. At the ed of a long day, wordlessly pass a little love note to your child. Even if it just simply says, “You are my sunshine, I love you”, or “Your smile lights up the room, I’m so grateful you’re mine”, it will give your child a soft glow of feeling cherished and adored. A post-it saying “Mama loves you” on the bathroom mirror, or a sweet note saying, “I’m thinking of you” in their lunch box… Once you get started you’ll see there are a hundred opportunities to pass little love notes. Have some fun with it - and try not to weep when they join in on the game and start returning the favour.
Hug them for longer
In the hustle and bustle of daily life it can be easy to forget to show our little ones that we’re not too busy for them. When they come in for a hug while you’re stirring the dinner, instead of patting them on the head and carrying on with your task, stop when you’re doing, bend to their level and hug them for at least eight seconds - or until they’re ready to pull away. It’s such a simple act, but being full available in the moments they need physical affection is so important. And if you think about it, we can all spare an extra eight seconds, no matter how busy we are.
Listen with no distractions
It’s not always possible to give our children our undivided attention when they have a story to tell us, especially when it seems like something trivial (how many times can we hear about how high they jumped in the playground or how the puddles were too wet?), but remember that someday your house will be empty and you’ll miss the constant stream of chatter commanding your attention. So whenever you can, make eye contact, pause what you’re doing, and listen with interest and undivided attention, asking questions and making them feel heard. We’re all human and sometimes it’s difficult, but there’s no better way to say “I love you” to our kids than to show an interest in their interests.
Speak in Code
We love the trick one that one of our lovely clients, a busy working mom of two, told us about. She says, “I want to be able to say ‘I love you’ to my son when he’s a teenager, and for him to hear it without getting embarrassed in front of his friends. So we have a code - I say, ‘Hey, guess what?!’ - and he knows that these words are always followed by ‘I love you buddy.’ So now when I say the code ‘Hey, guess what’ he just responds with ‘Yes mom, me too!’ I know we’ll communicate this way forever - no matter how old and how cool he is!”
There’s nothing more exciting to a child than a conspiracy. So create one between you. This type of connection is so simple in its execution, it’s brilliant. Sit down next to them at a random moment, and whisper into their ear, “You’re my favourite five-year-old in the whole world”, or “I love you to the moon and back again.” The simple act of saying something in such a way that it’s only between the two of you will make them feel special and loved.
We cannot be too effusive in showing our children how much we love them. After all, isn’t the goal to raise confident, secure little people who one day grow into adults who have no doubt how much they are loved and stand strong in their sacred place in the world? That’s what we’re all working towards - one “I adore you” at a time.
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