Show your children love on Valentine’s Day – and every day

Press Staff Writer

        Valentine’s Day offers a special opportunity for parents to carve out a special time for their children and remind them how important it is to care for one another.
        The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that families can show love, not only by planning quality time together but by incorporating loving gestures and affirmations into daily routines.
        “Every child deserves to feel loved – not just on a holiday, but every day,” said Dr. Emily Lieberman, an Illinois pediatrician and spokesperson for AAP. “Find ways to make your child feel special. Regularly carve out time with your child one on one. Fully engage in an activity that is meaningful to your child –- play a board game, draw a picture, watch him or her do a sport. A few minutes of uninterrupted attention helps a child flourish.
        “Relationships built on love, care and mutual respect are essential for children to grow up feeling safe, healthy and resilient,” she said.
        AAP offers these 14 ways to show love to children on Valentine’s Day – and every day.
        • Have heart-to-heart conversations: Ask your child “How was your day?” and actively listen to the answer. If they tell you about a challenge they are facing, let them finish the story before helping them to solve their problem. If you see signs of anxiety or depression, talk with your pediatrician.
        • Schedule game nights with the family. With cold winter weather​ and the ongoing spread of respiratory viruses, take the opportunity to spend more time at home playing and connecting as a family.
        • Share your love of reading: Start reading to your child beginning in infancy. Many studies show that reading together strengthens parent-child bonds and promotes positive parenting. Plus, when you read to or with your child, you help them build a foundation for success in school, which is linked to long-term wellness.
        • Take a deep breath, then hug: When your child is angry or grouchy, try not to take it personally. Calm your own emotions first, perhaps by taking a deep breath, and then give a hug, pat or other sign of affection. Once they are also calm and feeling better, consider talking with them about the event and how they might better manage those strong emotions the next time.
        • Discipline with love: Use positive, non-violent discipline. Harsh physical and verbal punishments don’t work and can damage long-term physical and mental health. From an early age, lay out clear and consistent rules that your children can understand. Give praise when they follow them — not just punishment when they don’t. Calmly explain consequences and follow through right away when rules are broken.
        • Choose words with care: Use plenty of positive and encouraging words when talking with your child. Model consideration and gratitude yourself by saying “please” and “thank you.” Skip the sarcasm, mockery and put-downs, even if you are teasing. Children often don’t understand your purpose. Even if they do, these messages can harm self-esteem and create negative ways of talking and connecting with each other.
        • Let them know you’re there: Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs. Be available to listen when your child wants to talk, even if it’s not the best time for you.
        • Care for the Earth. Spend time together in nature when you can, exploring ways to appreciate and protect it. Taking steps to care for the environment will show your children how you care about their future.
        • Forgive mistakes, including your own: If you lose your cool and react harshly to your child, apologize and explain how you will handle the situation in the future. Be sure to keep your promise. Also forgive yourself. No one is perfect.
        • Cook and eat together: One of the best ways to teach your children about good food choices and enjoy each other’s company is to cook together. Involve them in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to preparing and serving the meal. Family meals are a great opportunity to talk and connect. Put away any electronic devices, including your own cellphone.
        •Foster friendships: Help your child develop positive relationships with friends, siblings and members of the community. Teach them about the value of kindness. Encourage your child to be involved in activities that require teamwork, such as sports.
        • Embrace health and safety: Show how much you care by taking your children to the doctor regularly for well-child care visits. Get them caught up on recommended immunizations to protect them against infectious diseases. Teach them how to help avoid injuries, provide a healthy and nutritious diet, and encourage plenty of sleep and exercise to help them grow healthy and strong.
        • Be open and welcoming to whomever your children “love.” Parents may use words like, ‘Do you have a crush on any boys or girls at school? Please know that we will always love you no matter who you love.” This is also a good opportunity to talk to teens about dating, relationships, and sexual activity. We can make sure our children understand how to respect their bodies and others, that “no means no.”
        • Show affection: Say the words, ‘I love you,’ often and without limit as your children grow up.
        “The words we use and how we communicate with our children can set them up for increased self-esteem, positivity and openness with parents,” Dr. Lieberman said. “And no one is ever too old to hear the words, ‘I love you.’ Practice it daily and it becomes second nature.”


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