4 Ways To LOVE Your Child
Every “movement” has its own unique momentum but I do believe that the ability of parents, caregivers, mentors and educators to LOVE (Listen, Object, Value, and Empathize) is a necessary requirement in building the foundation that prepares a child to successfully navigate the world.
Listen – According to Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, “Motive and emotion share the same Latin root, motere, “to move.” Emotions are, literally, what moves us to pursue our goals; they fuel our motivations, and our motives in turn drive our perceptions and shape our actions. Great work starts with great feeling.”
How much quality one-on-one time do we spend with our children attending to their “feelings”? How are you responding to them when they do speak with you and share what is in their hearts? What are the tone and words that you use? Educators invest years in obtaining a degree to learn about what motivates young hearts and minds and to master the necessary skills of how to communicate with children. Even with the best degrees and experience teachers can struggle with the challenges of listening to children. There is no comparable degree for parenthood and typically our first-born child typically has the fun job of “breaking-in” our listening skills. As our children mature into young adults our listening skills need to continuously develop as well. There is no formal training but coaches, counselors, and educators can support us and point us in the right direction as we strive to support our children.
Object – Many adults have a difficult time telling others “NO.” As parents when we love our children and see them engaging in behaviors or activities that are detrimental to their success we have to say something. Maybe you believe they are not putting enough effort into their schoolwork or maybe you think they should not go to a party because you are concerned about the crowd that will be there. You may be concerned about the girl or boy they are dating or that they seem depressed and anxious and want to get them counseling or support.
When we love our children we have to be willing to set limits and tell them things they do not want to hear. Even if their immediate reaction is one of anger, our children need to feel safe. They may never admit it to you, but just knowing that someone is watching and will step in to support them when they are overwhelmed and feel that their life is too much for them to handle can be a source of comfort.
Value –The easy and fun part as a parent is to acknowledge and celebrate our child’s successes. The greater challenge is to acknowledge and support our children when they are struggling with academic, social, emotional and mental health issues. When they are overwhelmed with school and their social life, they may want to give up because everything feels like an obstacle that is immovable or a hurdle that is too high. It is in these darkest moments that we have to let them know how “valuable” and “valued” they are.
Part of that “movement” means drawing closer to your child when they are suffering. Sometimes in the face of heated arguments when they are telling you that everything about you is wrong, pushing you away, or worse not even engaging with you at all, the only way for them to know that you value them is to be physically present and to tell them that, “No matter how much you may try and push me away, I am ALWAYS going to be here for you.” Find other options to communicate if talking is too difficult. Send them an inspirational quote via text or e-mail. Leave them a note in their backpack or on their bed telling them: “You’re awesome”, “You are not alone”, “I will help you” or simply “I believe in you.”
Empathize – Empathy is defined by www.dictionary.com as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” The ability to put yourself in another’s place to truly connect with their feelings is a skill, which does not always come naturally. If we experienced a lack of love and understanding as a child from our parents or caregivers, or are currently going through our own personal crisis such as job loss or divorce, it can be that much harder to take on the stress and pain of your child or teenager. It is essential that we do the emotional work to acquire those skills so that we can be effective parents and advocates for our own children and the other children whose lives we may touch in our work.
Sometimes it is emotionally exhausting work to stay the course with your child and hold their hand when times are tough for them. If it continues to be a struggle, then it is important that you enlist the support of others to assist you in the effort. Your child does not expect perfection from you they only expect you. The ability to cope and work through discomfort or emotional pain is one of the greatest gifts we can give a child. As they successfully confront and conquer each challenge they are building a memory bank of resilience, which will shape their perception of themselves as successful human beings and it is that pride and self-love that shape their future actions and relationships. Remember, “Great work starts with great feeling.”
The Huffington Post profiled a couple celebrating their 70th anniversary. They were asked why their relationship was so strong and the husband said, “Love. Love. Love does it. We love each other immensely and always have.” Trust that the support and love that you give to a child as they navigate infancy through the challenging teenage years, young adulthood and beyond, will have a huge impact on the story they will tell their peers and other children year after year!
Tamara Harris Robinson is a life transition specialist, divorce coach, and advocate. Applying her skills in the areas of business, coaching, finance, and social work, Tamara serves clients nationwide.