Saying “I love you” is fundamental in a healthy relationship with our kids. Those three words are so powerful. Still, we may notice our children craving more.
As Valentine’s Day was this week, psychologist and The Local Moms Network contributor Reon Baird-Felman, Ph.D., gives us expert advice on how to build a deeper connection with our kids. Here are some easy phrases that promise to spark conversation.
Children of all ages can struggle with their space in the world. While we continue to work on prioritizing mental health and increasing inclusion, it’s important that our children are provided with positive messages regarding self-esteem and self-worth. This starts and grows at home. “You matter” tells kids they are valued and accepted just the way they are.
“That’s a great idea!”
Everyone loves positive affirmations. A great idea doesn’t need to be life-changing but your acknowledgement is exactly what a child needs to allow them to express themselves, to be inspired, to encourage them to recognize their own creativity or simply to brighten their day.
“Tell me more!”
Saying this lets kids know you’re listening. You can repeat details you hear that are important for both of you to identify and/or address. Ask questions about what happened to them or what they are relaying to you.
Be wary of using at bedtime – unless that’s when you really connect. (Ahem, moms of tweens and teens! Nights may be a key time older kids open up.)
“I love that you…”
Fill in the blank!
A few examples:
- I love that you enjoy playing basketball.
- I love that you know to brush your teeth before bedtime.
- I love that you look out for your (brother, sister, mother, friend).
- I love that you read instead of using the device.
These phrases offer positive reinforcement which involves positive recognition.
Saying, “I love that you…” draws attention to interests, personality traits and behaviors of a child. It lets them know that subtle and sometimes overlooked behaviors are just as appreciated as the big, bold ones.
Using this technique offers more opportunities for your child to feel seen and teaches them that value comes in varied degrees/sizes/components.
“Let me think about that and get back to you.”
Busy moms juggle many responsibilities. You don’t always have an immediate answer for a question – and you don’t have to.
Take your time to mull over the varied consequences of an ask, google the answer to that history problem, collaborate with your partner or even call a friend.
Your child will be happy that you circled back to them with an answer (even if it’s, “I don’t know that one, but let’s try to figure it out together.”). The key is to get back to them before they feel the need to remind you.
Dr. Reon Baird-Feldman works in reality entertainment television and has a private practice, 2nd City Psychological Consulting Services, PLLC, where she provides psychological services. Find her at Alma: https://secure.helloalma.com/providers/reon-baird-feldman/