There is a vast difference between being loved and feeling loved. As parents, we try to give our children the best of education and health. We take them to different classes after school for their physical and intellectual development. In our busy daily routine, does expressing love to our children sometimes take a backseat?
Let’s take an example. When our child gets good marks or behaves well we may find ourselves saying ‘Good boy, I love you.’ But what if he gets bad marks or misbehaves? Often our reaction is ‘Bad boy...I didn’t expect this from you!’ We may even show our disapproval by withdrawing love. The child may perceive that I am loved only when I do what my parents approve of. He may start associating his achievements with shower of love or refusal of it. When we habitually attend to what is missing in the child, loving and cherishing gets lost. A child may do ten things right during the day but we may focus on that one thing that went wrong.
Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of the book 5 Love Languages for Childre, says that every child has an emotional tank, a place of emotional strength that fuels her through the challenging days of childhood and adolescence. We need to fill our children’s emotional tanks with unconditional love by accepting them for who they are, not for what they do.
For a child to feel loved and secure and have good self-esteem, it is very important for the child to get the message: I matter and have value because I exist I am safe and I can trust my parents. When children experience feelings of being loved and being safe, oxytocin (happy hormone) gets released in the brain. With regular release of oxytocin, children start to view the world with interest and wonder rather than with a sense of fear and threat.
According to Dr. Chapman, love can be broadly expressed in five different ways — physical love, gifts, acts of service, word of affirmation and quality time. Each of us — parents and children perceive love in our own way. For instance if a child’s love language is words of affirmation, it means she feels loved when she is spoken to with appreciation and endearment.
The parent might give her hugs (physical love) or keep the phone away and play with her (quality time) or even help her with homework (acts of service). Despite all these, the child may be longing for ‘I love you!’ or ‘I am so happy to have you in my life!’ When I asked my son aged 12, “How do you know amma loves you?” He said, “I know, because you make yummy snacks for me when I return from school!” My son’s love language is act of service. How does your child perceive love?
The writer is a certified parent edu cator with Parenting Matters, an organ isation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more, look us up parentingmatters.in