Six Things Your Kids Need To Hear From You
Published: July 2, 2015
When you become a parent, there is nothing more important than your kids. It is an instinct buried in our DNA that changes how we think and act. But having the right parenting instincts doesn’t mean we automatically become better communicators and say what we feel. Or say what we know we should, but just can’t, for some reason.
Communication between parents and children can be hard. Add in a ~50% divorce rate and you have families splitting apart and then coming together in new relationships. Talking with kids in this situation can become very hard very quickly when parents and children are separated by distance or emotions.
Naturally, the types of conversations between parents and kids will vary depending on if they are toddlers, teenagers or adults. But there are some universal messages that that can be said early and throughout the relationship.
Life does not come with a guarantee on how long any of us will be alive, so why wait? Opening up the lines of communications and saying these six things to your kids is good for them, and for you.
What should you say?
1. I love you
This might seem obvious, and many of us will think, “Well, of course!”. But sometimes it is not so easy, particularly as children get older. When they are three years old it flows naturally and comfortably. But what about when children are thirty?
People have trouble saying "I love you" for many reasons. Maybe it just wasn’t done in their household so now, as a parent, it feels awkward. Or, even worse, being raised in a home with emotionally distant parents can make it hard for people to break the cycle and say it to their own kids.
There can be fear involved. People that have been hurt before can be afraid the feeling will not be reciprocated. They just don’t want to take the emotional risk.
Life can cause us to have internal conversations with ourselves and make saying these three words difficult.
Even so, children need to hear them. Not feeling sufficiently loved by parents has resulted in countless therapy sessions for people later in life. Also, it will help them be more comfortable in showing affection to their own children.
Nothing bad can happen from feeling too loved.
2. I believe in you
As they grow, our children will have people in their lives that say that can’t do it. Or they will feel pressure from others to change who they are in order to fit in. Not having the courage to be true to themselves can result in caving in to peer pressure, conforming to the expectations of others, or doing things that are not right because someone else said so.
Trying to be someone you’re not can lead to being in the wrong job, in bad relationships and focusing on the wrong things. High self-esteem gives children the ability to say “no” with confidence to bad choices, and “yes” to opportunities that fit who they are.
3. I trust you
We do what we can to prepare our kids for the challenges of the future with the right values, attitude and ability to make courageous decisions. Then we need to let go.
Despite our great advice, our stories of how we screwed up in the past, and what we did that worked brilliantly...they will likely make many of the same mistakes. You can only learn about life by doing it. Experience is the greatest teacher.
Telling them you trust them validates their judgement, builds their self-esteem and gives them the confidence to try, and fail, and learn. Trust can encourage better choices by having them take responsibility and feeling they can do it.
4. I’m sorry. I was wrong
As parents, it’s easy to tell our kids, regardless of their age, what they are doing wrong. After all, we are older and wiser and, therefore, supposed to be the experts.
But, sometimes we get it wrong. If that happens, and it happens to me more than I like to admit, then it is important to admit it and have the conversation.
Admitting to a mistake can be a struggle for some people. Maybe it’s because we are supposed to have all the answers. Or, it could be our personality and we don’t want to appear weak.
Kids of any age have finely tuned sensors and know when they have been unfairly judged. They feel disrespected and it can stick with them. Do you remember a time when you were a kid and an adult (maybe your parents or a teacher) accused you unfairlyÉ How many decades ago was thatÉ
If you made a mistake own up to it. If there were mistakes on both sides, then decide if you want to be the one with the courage to start the conversation. But do it because you want to, not as a way to get the other to admit they were wrong. It’s not a tactic. It’s the right thing to do.
If you die without admitting mistakes, then do you win?
5. I forgive you
Sometimes our kids screw up. Badly. As much as we love them, they can disappoint us and they hurt us or others.
Many children carry guilt because of what they have done or what has happened between them and their parents. They realize they made a bad choice. They may come forward and apologize or they may not.
What is to be gained by not forgiving them? Somebody has to make the first move. Your forgiveness can only come from you. Only you can decide.
6. Thank you. You made my life better
Having kids is full of challenges - the responsibility, the time, the effort, the money. There can be soaring highs and crushing lows. It can feel a lot like work.
The day to day struggles of being a parent, in addition to the long list of other responsibilities of being an adult, can cause us to forget the big picture and fall into a pattern of negativity.
Kids, of all ages, have a keen ability to pick up on your communication signals - whether they are verbal or not . They know when you are stressed. They know when you are disappointed. They know when you think life would be easier without children.
But do they know that you are glad they are your kids? That you think your life is better because they are in your life? It might feel uncomfortable and emotional, but nothing is lost and everything is to be gained by telling them.
Maybe you say these things to your kids all the time. Or perhaps you find it to be a struggle.
What do you think about this list? What else should be added. We would love it if you added your opinion in the comments.