Children need their parents and their presence more than they need expensive presents. It’s a simple truth–children of all ages need to feel seen and heard by the adults in their lives. Kids thrive when they feel their parents unconditional love, support and encouragement! This is not an original child development theory of mine but one that has been researched and written about for decades. Dr. Spock spoke about this in his bestselling book, Baby and Child Care (which was first published in 1946). Dr. Spock is credited as the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and family dynamics. Here is a list of 5 simple and free things we can do for our children to show them how much we care.
1. Read to your kids. Every night. Research has shown that kids who read for 20 minutes a day perform better in school. Start a simple routine of reading to or with your child for 20 minutes a day at bedtime (or whenever you can fit it in your daily schedule). In our family, it is our favorite time of the day!
2. Listen. Spend some time every day to check in with your kids individually. Modern families lead busy lives and our kids often see us multi-tasking on the phone, checking our email and simultaneously making dinner or packing a lunch box. Carve out 10 minutes a day to spend with your child or with each of your children if you have more than one. Ask them about their day. Get down on the floor with your preschooler. Ask your school-aged kids about their highs and lows over dinner–if you don’t have dinner as a family on some nights, then carve out 10 minutes to talk before bedtime.
3. Hug your kids! Daily. I read a study recently that said that hugging someone you care about can ease stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure and even boost memory.
4. Create simple family traditions. Our girls love family movie night. We make popcorn and hot cocoa and cuddle up on the couch. We often rent movies from our local library and the girls love being in charge of picking our selections. Consider having Friday night family dinners if having regular family dinners during the work and school week is challenging. Think about inviting extended family or close friends over for a casual and fun Sunday night dinner.
5. Play! It’s really that simple. Play with the toys you already have in your house. Break out the Legos, art supplies, pretend play/dress up or board games and spend some time playing with your kids. Spend a Sunday afternoon at your local park, pack a frisbee or a ball, a blanket, chairs and a picnic lunch for your family.