Children must FEEL they are loved

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Family hands on team

St John Bosco once said “It’s not enough to love the children, it is necessary that they are aware that they are loved” I recently re-read this quote and it got me thinking about how we show and experience the love of others. Babies are born with an intense need to develop a strong passion and love towards their mothers but how they experience the love of their mothers will set in motion a pattern of life-long behaviour around relationships. It is too simplistic to say that we marry our mothers however we will seek to repeat how we experienced this initial love relationship in all future relationships…for better or worse!

To return to St John Bosco’s words, how can we ensure that our children know that they are loved? We are a society of increasingly time poor parents who, according to the 2011 UNICEF report of child happiness, persistently give our children material “stuff” when what they want more than anything else, according to the same report, is more time with us.

Our first bond as babies is with our Mothers primarily, then our fathers and the rest of our family (siblings and other close family members) and it is during this co-dependent stage of development 0-8 months that we develop our sense of self, learn how to trust, experience how we can expect the world around us to receive us but we do not have the cognition to internalise any of this verbally, we learn it in a physical way through skin to skin touch, rocking, eye contact, tone of voice…this is how we first become aware of being loved, material goods are not a feature!

Given we are under immense time pressures and increasing demands, how can we ensure that our children remain aware of our love for them. There are some practical tools and techniques you can simply employ at home that will ensure you have maximum quality time with your children even when you do not have quantity time with them, small changes that make big differences. You can;

  • Plan your week ahead: Tuesday/ Thursday is story night; Friday is makeyour- own-desert night, football or outdoor play on Sunday afternoon. In this way time won’t fly away with all your good intentions.
  • Plan the week’s menu ahead of time and go for healthy but quick meals during the week days. All this planning might take up one whole evening but the rest of your week will flow pleasantly because of this and hopefully leave you with extra time
  • Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together and don’t be in a rush. Talk about your day and ask about theirs, what is everyone’s best bit of the day and the day they wish they could do differently
  • Take an extra ten minutes to read the bedtime story and kiss them goodnight – recent Irish research shows that 60% of Irish parents say they are too tired to read a bedtime story at the end of the day, the bedtime story is an essential part of child well-being and happiness, carefully chosen (non-commercialised) books can also allow you to get your own agenda across such as stories specifically dealing with nightmares; anxiety; toilet training; anger; bereavement; separation etc and also allows for some valuable eye to eye, calm, quality time at the end of the day.