Love – never has something been so prolifically written or sung about, lamented or celebrated. Experts all agree that feeling and knowing that we are loved can improve our self-esteem and enhance our feeling of being accepted in the world. Feeling loved boosts self-esteem, fosters an environment of trust and self-confidence, lessens the fear of making mistakes and increases in children the confidence to try new things. It enables them to feel part of something bigger than themselves, that they are important and valued. Children who grow up feeling loved, go onto be more successful in relationships when they are older.
Key Facts About Telling Your Child You Love Them:
- It is one of the single most important things a parent can say or do.
- Feeling loved boosts self-esteem.
- There is no limit on how much you should say it, as long as every time it is said, it is genuine, heartfelt and completely unconditional.
- Feeling loved and hearing those words can help children to express their own feelings more clearly.
- Try not to feel hurt if it is not said back, or put pressure on children to say it back – the more they hear, it the more they will feel it, and they will say it back when they feel comfortable to do so.
- What should be taken into consideration however, is the age of your child – preteens and teenagers may not necessarily be appreciative of being told they are loved in front of friends or in public!
For some parents, saying, “I love you!” to their children is a natural and easy – for others, it isn’t that simple. Here are a few simple ideas to help get this vital message across if you have trouble saying it, even if you feel it.
- Make it a Habit
Saying, “I love you,” doesn’t need a special occasion – anytime will do. Why not say it as you drop them off at school, before bedtime as you snuggle them into bed, a kiss on the forehead as they get up and have breakfast, as you sit down to eat or if you say it at a similar time and make a fun routine of it, then it makes it easier to say and, more natural when you do. What time and place best suits you and your child?
If you have more than one child, then it’s important to say it to them personally as well as all of your children together. There will be a moment when you’re alone with each, so grab that opportunity as that’s the perfect time.
- Frequency over Volume
You know you love your children so, if walking around and loudly and demonstrably declaring your love for them isn’t your style, whispering it in their ear as you give them a hug or a kiss is the perfect opportunity. Appropriate physical closeness with children is important. As they get older, they might squirm or pull away, or say, “You’re so embarrassing,” This is them telling you where their boundaries are, so try not to be hurt (even though you might be) and respect their boundaries.
- It’s Not Always Serious
As long as it is genuine and heartfelt, it doesn’t have to be a serious or “heavy” conversation – it can be said in a light-hearted moment when you are having fun, “You’re funny you are – I love you for that,”
- Hugs and kisses
Parents often give hugs and kisses to their children and the more the better! When you’re giving them a hug or a kiss, no matter how fleeting, say it then in their ear.
- Acknowledge that Sometimes it’s Not Easy to Say How We Feel
If you know it’s hard to express your feelings, be honest and tell the children it’s not always something you always find easy, but you love them to bits, every day. Saying I love you is like a muscle –the more you say it, the easier it becomes to say – and the more you will feel comfortable doing so. It’s such an important message – give it a try.
- Send messages via text / WhatsApp
Kids have phones from a young age now – send them a message over the phone, telling them how much you love them and how amazing they are. Tell them you’re proud of them – and then say it face to face when you see them.
- Little Notes and Messages
This will depend on the age of the child – if they can’t read yet, draw a little picture and put it by their toothbrush, or on their pillow. Leave notes for them to find around the house – make it a treasure hunt to see if they can find all 10 notes you’ve hidden round the house.
- If they Say it – You Say it
This is a definite – if they tell you that they love you, say it right back, in a heartfelt way, and smile at them.
- Read a Story
For little ones, there are soon many books about saying “I love you.” My favourite is “Guess How Much I love You” by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram – available on Amazon. Reading a story like this is a great “prompt” to bring up the subject and then say it after you have read the story.
- Fridge Magnets
Tried and tested – and works – spell out an “I love you” on the fridge, and then say it when they have discovered it.
What matters is that it is said, genuinely meant and repeated as often as possible. You can say it out loud in the car to rehearse it, when no one can hear you – after all, who will know? Being loved is the most precious gifts we can give our children, friends and family – so seize those moments, be bold and give it a go.