Ten ways families can show kids love on Valentine’s Day

Press Staff Writer

        Receiving love, care, and emotional support is vital for children — on Valentine’s Day and every day. This is especially important as we deal with the continuing stress and challenges of the pandemic.
        The American Academy of Pediatrics offers ideas on how families can show love, not only by planning quality time together but by incorporating loving gestures and affirmations into your daily routines.
        “Children may enjoy helping plan special game nights or other activities and adding them to the family calendar,” said Andrew Garner, MD, PhD, FAAP. “It’s also important to set aside some one-on-one time with each of your children regularly. Find something they like to do, and put away cellphones, tablets, and other devices and really focus on each other.”
        Here are 10 suggestions for showing love to children on Feb. 14 – 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. Many kids are having a tough time as they deal with pandemic-related changes at school and time away from friends who might be sick. If you see signs of anxiety or depression, talk with your pediatrician.
        • 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 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.
        • 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. Understanding how to forgive is important for your child to accept their own mistakes, and it builds confidence and resilience.
        • 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. Get to know your child’s friends and talk about responsible and respectful relationships.
        • Embrace health and safety. Show how much you care by taking your children to the doctor regularly for well-childcare 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. A good place to start is by using seat belts or car seats every time you are in a vehicle.
        • “Say the words, ‘I love you,’ often as your children grow up,” Dr. Garner said. “And show them that you mean it by embracing these 10 tips. Children are never too old to hear it … or to feel it.”


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