The feeling of having parents who are there no matter what and feeling secure about their own worth as a human being, has a tremendous amount to say for children's development. Not least in terms of how the child will relate to others and eventually build their own relationships.
Many of us underestimate how important we are to our children. Your unconditional love is important for the child's self-esteem and his experience of being a valuable person.
The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence
Positive self-esteem is important when your child is about to explore the world, set their own boundaries and eventually stand on their own two feet. These concepts are often used slightly interchangeably.
- Self-esteem can be described as how much you value yourself just as you are, and how happy you are with yourself.
- Self-confidence is more about your belief in yourself in the sense of what you can achieve.
Children need a safe base
Two basic needs of children are to explore the world and to have a safe place where they can find comfort and care. We call this to have a "safe base" for exploration and a "safe haven" to calm down and recover. Security, attachment and belonging are closely related, and we humans need these things in order to function well by ourselves and together with others.
As parents, we should therefore strive to be a safe base and safe haven for our children. Something they can return to in between their smaller and larger journeys of exploration.
When children do not experience their caregivers as predictable and safe, they will use much of their attention looking for safety and security. Children who feel safe and secure can more fully use their attention to explore their surroundings and acquire new experiences. This is good for their development. Parents’ love of their children provides the most important foundation for a sense of security in our lives.
How do you show your child love?
We all have different ways of showing that we love each other, and there is not one way that fits everyone or every situation. Some people pour kisses and hugs upon their children, while others feel that a gentle nod and a pat on the shoulder is more appropriate. The important thing is that your child feels and understands that he or she is loved.
You might express love by
- telling your child that you love him
- making food you know your child likes
- hugging and cuddling your child
- joining in with your child’s play
- buying things the child wants
- protecting your child by driving him to and from friends or recreational activities
A lap to sit on for the tired three-year-old and a cup of cocoa for the sixteen year old with romantic troubles, are both ways of saying: "I love you.”
Does your child understand that you love her?
The next time you hug your child or say that you love her, you can try to be aware of how she reacts. Does she react with body language? Or with words? Maybe she reacts in other ways? Ask her how she knows that you love her.
Why is this important?
The way we show that we love each other can be much more than just saying it directly or giving each other a hug. You know yourself how you show that you love your child, but are you sure that your child understands it? By making sure your message is understood, you make sure your child feels loved and appreciated.
Show love in a natural way
In what way is it most natural for you to express love? Perhaps you have a common hobby, or you join in on and support what the child likes to do? Prioritizing time with your child is a way to show love. If you have more than one child, it can be extra enjoyable for a specific child to have their parents completely for themselves for a while.
Whatever form of love feels natural to you and your child, it's good to remember that it's not possible to have too much love. While it doesn't always feel the case, kids basically want to be on the same side as their parents. When a parent shows that "I love you just as you are", it strengthens both self-esteem and the feeling of being a team.
What do you think your child would have answered if she had been asked "How do your parents show that they love you?” Are you unsure of what your child would say? Ask her then!