Learning how to express healthy love and affection is essential for children’s self-esteem and self-respect.
Below are some tips on how to teach your child to express and receive healthy love and affection.
1. Teach children to take care of their bodies with healthy hygiene, eating healthy, getting enough play activities.This develops the platform early for self-esteem and self-respect, which is the fuel to express healthy love and affection to others.
2. Teach children about different types of relationships including Respectful or Courtesy relationships, Loving and Affectionate Relationships or Intimate and Romantic Relationships and how to show healthy love and affection within each one of these. This is age dependent and important for healthy boundaries and safety.
a. Respectful or courteous relationships which may generally have an authority figure involved asks of the child to have the social graces or etiquette of saying ““please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” This can also be a situation where the child learns how to, for example, assist a child that may have stumbled or needs help, by approaching and asking if it is okay to help.
b. Loving or affectionate relationships are associated with people that are closest to the child, perhaps family, caregivers, and those individuals that are consistently present and known to the child. Expressing love and affection to these individuals may be more enhanced with physical touch by embracing, kisses and hugs or being held. This is modeled by the parents to each other, but also by the parents to the child through listening, playing games with the child and telling them you love them combined with a kiss or hug while being mindful of voice tone and language.
c. Intimacy and Romantic relationships, these relationships may occur in adolescence when the child begins to learn the intensity of how affection and love are received by another. These are generally natural emotions that occur and when the child comes to you to ask questions or share their experience of these emotions, this is the time they will be seeking validation and understanding of how they are feeling and how to express healthy love and affection in an intimate, respectful and loving way.
3. Teach children to use appropriate language and discipline children when they are using bad language. Children will pick up language from social media, school peers, television, perhaps even at home. Teach the child how to express themselves by describing their feelings and opinions without vulgar language as adjectives.
4. Teach children how to listen before speaking, listening is a skill that requires attention and focus. This is best learned by validation of their feelings, and then also having them learn how to validate your feelings or another’s feelings. They can learn this by paying attention, repeating what you said and understanding another’s perspective. This is age appropriate as well, but important for future relationships. “How do you think Mark felt when you took his pens without asking?” Child: “Mad” “Do you think you could tell Mark that you understand he felt mad when you took his pens?”
5. Teach children to seek comfort from you or if that is challenging depending on the family dynamics from someone that is trustworthy and supportive. Children need a “go to” person that they can trust, and respectfully, it is not always the parent that can provide the comfort the child needs or be available at these times, therefore, be willing to talk with the child to work together on those they can go to when seeking comfort when you are not available. This list of people needs to be one that is parent approved and you feel safe with supporting.
6. Teaching and maintaining rules and boundaries are forms of healthy love and affection and they will use these in their own life for years to come. Children will be capable on how to set their own boundaries with others and express feelings when their boundaries are crossed.
7. Teach children awareness of other customs and diversity and how this may affect the expression of love and affection with others. We are presently living in ever-changing times, therefore some of the changes in gender, gender equality, transgender, etc. whether it is bathrooms to same gender parents, the value of learning your own philosophies on these relevant diverse considerations is important to teach your child.
Children may speak directly and straightforward and be unable to have the awareness that perhaps the parent does with regards to these areas, learning how to teach love and affectionate in a nonjudgmental fashion is key to healthy love and affection with others.
Parents are an integral part of teaching through their own modeling of behavior with one another and others. The more traits such as being considerate, honest, loyal, compassionate and having integrity you are working on within yourself the more likely the children will observe and model it in their own life.