Girl Hug Boy There are so many ways you can let your child know you love him — even if he isn’t one to cuddle and tells you that your kisses are embarrassing. This Valentine’s Day, take some time to reflect on the many ways you can display the unconditional love you have for your kids.

  • That email can wait. When the work day is done and you are home with your kids, spend time engaging with them. Get on the floor and play a game, talk to your child about her day, and ask about her friends or her favorite pastime. Anything that causes your phone to buzz can wait a little bit while you connect with your child.
  • Battle bad moods. If your child is feeling down, give him an affectionate pat on the back or reassuring hug. Make a little hot chocolate or his favorite snack. Let him know you are available to talk if he needs it or ask if there is anything you can do to help him feel better.
  • Practice gentle discipline. Use rewards and restrictions for discipline. Do not shame your children, manhandle them or use name-calling when you administer a punishment.
  • Talk positively. Give your children positive reinforcement when you see them doing something good. Make sure they know you notice when they are behaving appropriately. And be specific! “I liked the way you helped your brother figure out that game. It was very thoughtful of you.”
  • Respect their boundaries. If your child wants privacy, let her have it. If she says she doesn’t want to talk about something that moment, tell her you’re there for her when she feels like sharing. If your child doesn’t feel like snuggling, don’t force it on her. Some kids require less physical affection than others and that is OK. You can show your affection in other ways — tousling her hair, a little roughhousing, or a gentle squeeze of her arm or shoulder also says “I love you.”
  • Display their work. Tape up special drawings or cards your children make. Give that clay turtle a prime spot on the bookshelf or mantle.
  • Pause to appreciate. If your child is excited about showing you something or wants to share what happened at school, take a moment to listen. If you tell her, “Not now, I’m busy,” not only do you take the wind out of her sails, you might never hear the great story of how she finally stood up to the kid who was making fun of her.
  • Surprise “I love yous.” Most of us tell our children that we love them at bedtime — but how about when he says something that cracks the family up? How about when you catch him really concentrating on his math homework? The unexpected declaration of love goes a long way.
  • Sneaky notes. Put a small note in your child’s lunchbox, inside the violin case or in his backpack pocket. You could write a simple love note, remind her about a shared joke or wish her good luck on a test.
  • Be affectionate. Give your children plenty of hugs and kisses. Snuggle in the bed on weekend mornings, cuddle on the sofa during a family movie. You not only show your love, but you show them how to love.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD

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