February, the month when everyone is starting to see pink and red and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Some people make it a big deal. But, if you are like my family, we do something small and simple. Caregivers sometimes overthink what to get our kids for special holidays or even just to show them we love them every day. There does not always have to be a special occasion to show them our love, but special days like birthdays, holidays, and when they achieve a major milestone or goal happen throughout the year. Caregivers might think that all kids want the same thing or that more presents mean more love, but that is not true! They all want something different and have their own thoughts, expectations, and ways that they like to be shown love.
My husband and I have five biological children and while they are as similar as kids born from the same parents can be, they are all completely different in the ways they show their love. Because of this, I show them each love in different ways that they understand. I have learned over the years (my oldest is 12 years old and my youngest is almost five years old) that if I pay attention to who they are as their own person, they will show and give me insight into how they want to show and be shown love.
So how do I know how my kids want and show love? Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. But, it can be simple. Observe your child. Talk to them. What makes their face light up? When are they seeking your attention? What makes them happy? While I’d love to give you a checklist of possible love behaviors, that list would be very long. However, here are some types of love behaviors that you may observe in your kid(s) or maybe even see in yourself.
Some kids might enjoy one-on-one time with one of their caregivers. They may want to take a car ride with the music blaring while both of you sing at the top of your lungs. This could also look like making a warm cup of hot chocolate and sitting under a blanket outside on the porch looking at the mountains enjoying the quiet. Quality time is not about the amount of time, but about what you do and how you spend the time you do have! It also does not mean that money needs to be spent or a big elaborate vacation needs to take place. Kids remember the moments! What might seem the most insignificant to us will leave a lasting impact for them.
Caregivers, sometimes we cannot get around that fact that our kids like to receive presents. That is okay! That is a kid for you. It is something new and exciting and they like living in those moments because to them everything is new and exciting. There will be some kids that, when they get a gift from the caregiver, they think that is the best thing that they could do for them. Others, if they are anything like me, appreciate any thoughtful gift but do not need it for someone to show their love. Gifts do not always have to be something expensive either. A gift could be a pack of gum from the gas station on a random Tuesday or a rock that is picked up while taking a walk. I know sometimes it is hard to not compare ourselves to others if we do not get as much as others do for their child. We have to remember that kids are not going to remember what we bought them on their 9th birthday when they are 25 years old. If your child loves to receive gifts, do the best you can within the budget that you have.
I think we all start out needing physical touch in some way, shape, or form. Remember when you brought your new infant home for the first time, and you laid them down to actually go get yourself something to eat, and they begin to cry? You rush back over and pick them up and they almost instantly stop. For infants, they need the physical touch of their caregiver to help give security and comfort because they have not learned any other forms yet. As children begin to get older, some might still need this type of affection. Others might not like to give hugs to every family member when they greet them. That is okay! If physical touch is not a way your child feels or gives love, it does not mean they do not love you or you do not love them.
If your child is a physical touch kid, there are so many examples of how to show them you love them. For instance, my oldest son loves to give hugs when he sees me in the morning, when he has been gone from me for a while, or even for comfort when he doesn’t feel good. Giving a hug is an easy thing to do with your child that does not require much effort but can make a big impact on their mood. Sitting on the couch cuddling your child while watching a movie or reading a book can show them that you love them as well. Even a simple kiss on the head as they walk out the door for school with a “Have a nice day!” reminder. Physical touch is an area that some lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, so keep in mind that some are still trying to find their way back into what is an appropriate amount for them and their needs.
Words of Encouragement
This is my personal favorite way someone can show me that they love me. I love hearing good, positive things about what I am doing or who I am as a person. Children are no different! They love when caregivers sing their praises when they get a good grade on an assignment or when they are “caught” being nice to a friend. Children love encouragement from the people that they value the most. They want that feeling of acceptance and belonging in who they are and the person they are growing into. Words of encouragement do not always have to be verbal. Leaving notes for your child is always a great way to tell them how much you love them. Even conversations that show you are engaged and are providing support through your words are all ways they can value the words you speak to them.
We all know you love your child and only want the best for them. These are just a few examples of ways you can show your child the love you have for them in a way that they connect to you the most. There are so many other ways you will identify just by listening to them when they speak, making eye contact, asking them about their day, letting them explain to you their favorite game, paying attention to how they interact with their peers, and many more. Just remember, that every relationship is different, and every child is different. They are each unique and special, and as caregivers, we can use this approach to celebrate them not only on holidays but every day of the year!
Meet the Author
Angela Mink is a Program Manager and Family Engagement Specialist with The EdVenture Group. Angela is currently working towards her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Liberty University. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Marshall University, and her Bachelor’s degree in History from West Virginia State University.