I woke up the other morning to the sound of the ring of one of the most influential women in my life calling me: my mom. We spoke about various things, and at some point, my mom told me how proud she was of me, that despite my history I was able to overcome many obstacles and help others who are struggling.
Long story short, my childhood was marked with struggles and lack of a strong mother figure– not because she didn’t want to be there for my siblings and I, but because she was in an abusive controlling relationship, to name just one of many reasons. She didn’t know that not giving us what we needed was instrumental to our developmental both mentally and physically. She simply couldn’t provide us all that we needed — the love, the care, the few words that could have changed a lot for a little child.
My childhood was an extreme case, but the truth is, we often forget the power we have as moms. The question becomes what can we do as parents to help encourage and support our children so that they don’t grow up feeling a void. Here are 10 things that I think we can all strive to do as parents that will have both short-term and long-term positive effects on our children.
Love your child unconditionally. This sounds simple, but saying it out loud is helpful. This is the most basic thing a parent can do, but it’s something you have to do actively, every single day.
Listen to your child without judgment. Sometimes this is harder than others, but the first thing you should do when your child is speaking is to listen and ask yourself if you are truly listening and being open to what they are actually saying.
Give your child words of encouragement often. This doesn’t mean you have to compliment your child on every tiny thing that is done. However, it is so important to continually give words of support, encouragement, and affirmation in their daily life.
Let your child know that you trust that they will be able to make the right decision — even if you are not sure. Trust is so important to a child. If you don’t trust your child to make a decision, this breeds indecision, self-consciousness, and insecurity in later years.
Tell your child that you are proud of them — even when they don’t get an A on their test. If your child thinks they are letting you down, it will affect them negatively. You don’t need to praise your child for failing a test, but your child should know that even if they don’t make great grades, you are proud of them as a person.
Pay attention to your child and know what really makes them happy (not what makes you happy). Give special attention to the time you spend with your child. Are you really paying attention or are you on your phone? Figure out what gives them joy during the day.
When you are going through an emotional event or a trying period, be mindful when you are around your child, and don’t project your thoughts and feelings onto your kid. If you are feeling emotionally unstable it’s hard to be a strong support system for your kid, but projecting insecurity, fear, anger, and other emotions onto your child can be so damaging. Try to separate your daily life events from your ability to support your child with words of encouragement.
Enjoy as much time as you can with your children when they are young. You will not get these moments back.
Ask your child how they are feeling and really listen. Don’t wait until your child is much older to have deep conversations about your relationship. If you feel at any point that your relationship with your child is going off course, simply asking your child to talk to you about how they are feeling can go a long way. Ask them what they need from you as a parent. Young children will have trouble articulating their feelings, but as your child gets older they will be able to give you glimpses into what they want you to say — what they need you to say.
Let your child feel emotions. Sometimes as parents, especially if we’ve gone through something difficult, it’s easy to tell our kids they need to be strong. Kids are more fragile than adults. Don’t dismiss any emotion your child is feeling. If they are feeling nervous, anxious, angry, sad, for frustrated, encourage them to talk about it and really identify why they are feeling that way. Don’t encourage your child to cover up their feelings, instead, allow them to open up to you.
Here’s another great website that has “101 words of affirmation that every child wants to hear.” Let’s all take a look at the list and see how many we are incorporating into our daily lives with our kids and make an effort to use more.