son leaning head on fathers shoulder In this fast-paced world, we all need reminders to slow down, focus on what’s important, and better appreciate the people around us — especially the littlest people in our lives. This Valentine’s Day, skip the sweets (or at least some of them!) and try these quick, easy and inexpensive ways to reconnect with your kids.

  1. Put away the electronics. When school work and the work day are done, spend time engaging with your kids instead of your email. Get on the floor and play a game, talk to your child about her day, ask about her friends or favorite pastimes. Those social media posts can wait.
  2. Pay attention. Look at your child when he talks to you. Making eye contact during a conversation is a simple way to let your child know you’re tuned in and that you value what he has to say. If you need to finish dinner or the laundry, ask your child to be patient for a few minutes so you’re sure to give him your full attention when you’re ready.
  3. Be true to your word. If you promise your child you’ll play cards after dinner, do it. Keeping “promises,” no matter how small they seem, shows your child that she’s a priority and promotes trust.
  4. Tell your child you love him when he least expects to hear it. Many of us only tell our kids we love them at bedtime or when they head off to school. But do you say it when your child says something funny that cracks the family up? Or when you catch him really concentrating on his homework? Declarations of love may be more memorable and meaningful when they’re unexpected.
  5. Show your love quietly. Some kids get self-conscious about telling their parents they love them, or hearing parents say they love them — especially in front of friends. Creating a special signal — such as putting a hand to your heart — that you both know means “I love you” can be a fun and less cringe-worthy way to share your love. If you have more than one child, try developing different signals for each one to make kids feel uniquely loved.
  6. Speak positively. Give your children positive reinforcement when you see them doing something good. Make sure they know you notice when they behave appropriately or go above and beyond and be specific with your praise. For example: “I liked how you asked your sister to join your team when you saw her classmates weren’t including her. It really cheered her up and was very thoughtful of you.”
  7. Display your child’s creativity. Tape up the special drawings or cards your child makes. Give the clay turtle he sculpted a prime spot on a living room shelf. Share his spooky Halloween story with friends by email or social media. These acts show your child you’re proud of him and that you appreciate his creative efforts.
  8. Battle bad moods. If your child is feeling down, give her an affectionate pat on the back or reassuring hug. Make some hot chocolate or her favorite snack. Sometimes a little distraction will help improve her mood. And be sure to ask if there’s anything you can do to help her feel better — and if there’s not, let her know you are always available to listen.
  9. Be affectionate. Give your children plenty of hugs and kisses. On weekend mornings, snuggle in bed. Cuddle on the sofa during a family movie. Have tickle battles and funny face contests. You’re not only showing your love, you’re showing them how to love.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD