12 Ways to Show Your Children You Love Them

Karen Whiting

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Published Mar 13, 2023
12 Ways to Show Your Children You Love Them

According to a 2011 Association of Psychological Science study, the ability to love takes root in earliest infancy. Other research shows that people who felt unwanted as children often struggle with depression throughout their lives and view themselves as damaged. That feeling can arise from parents not investing time in them, being left alone too much, or a lack of encouragement and positive words, as well as abuse and neglect. Such studies underscore the importance of making sure children feel loved. You may think you are showing love, but do they feel wanted? Their perception is different.

Take steps to nurture your children and ensure they feel wanted and loved.

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Mom with child leaving for school

Express Love, Affirmation, and Appreciation

1. Affirm Your Love

Express love with positive words that show love, so complimenting their great smiles, effort, and successes shows you look at them and watch what they do. You care enough to notice. The words "I love you" clearly express the sentiment and confirm your actions. Words are powerful, and children can replay them forever, so be careful what you say. Words should show approval, acceptance, and affirmation so they know you love them for their uniqueness, rejoice in their abilities, and thank God for placing them in your family.

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mother holding newborn baby, fears of first time mothers

2. Show Affection

Touch is important, from holding your baby through a hug or pats on the back as they grow. Touch calms a person's nerve centers, slows the heartbeat, and lowers stress hormones. It physically shows love that makes a difference! Touch activates the brain's orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to compassion and feelings of being rewarded. This is key to developing empathy and forming attachments. Holding hands, group hugs, sitting side by side, a kiss on the forehead or cheek, patting a hand, massaging the back, brushing hair, or locking arms are among the many ways to provide positive touch. Affection can also be given with approving looks and smiles that give your child a warm feeling that helps them feel valued.

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Father and son embracing

3. Appreciate Your Child

Thank your child and state how you enjoy their company, help, laughter, and more. When a child shares a problem, keep it confidential and thank them for choosing to talk it over. Thank children for thoughtful actions and words, empathy, spending time with you, and little actions of kindness. Also, show them appreciation for how they interact with family members and friends. That helps a child feel loveable and confirms that their presence makes a difference to you. It also reinforces thoughtfulness and a sense of caring for others. One mom who knew her children were too young to honor her for mother's Day took them all outside, blew bubbles, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and simply played. They kept laughing and hugging her. Appreciation is often returned.

These basic ways to show love start at birth with hugs, kisses, and even clapping when a child smiles, learns a word, or uses their arms and feet. We may stop holding them on our laps, but we should never stop showing love through words, touch, and appreciation. As sons grow, dads can show affection through wrestling and other play. Verbal contact becomes more critical as sons reach adolescence, and laughing becomes a great way to make verbal contact. When we show love, children can easily accept and understand God's love.

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Mom talking to teen daughter

Nurture Love with Positive Communication

4. Spend Time Talking

Show excitement and cheer for your kids when they bring their news and share what they learned. Empathize with their feelings, whether it's joy or sadness. This confirms that emotions are okay to share. Balance the negative emotions with ideas on proper outlets, responses, and the need to forgive. Giving your child your full attention lets them know they matter to you. Communicating also means listening, so be attentive to your child's words and body language. Strive to understand their needs and desires. Ask what they need and how you can help them reach their goals. This helps you know if they realize the depth of your love for them.

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5. Be Honest and Authentic

5. Be Honest and Authentic

They want to see you live what you say. Share if your family has financial problems without giving details. Just let them know that paying the bills and buying food is hard. Let them chat about possible solutions, like letting them cut out coupons to use at the store and ways to save on the energy bill. Pray together and let that be an open time to thank God for blessings and seek guidance during struggles. Actively sharing faith shows God is important in our daily lives and that he loves them too. When one daughter asked me about abortion for disabled children, I responded that I could never stop a life God began. I added that if they or a sibling became disabled from an accident, I would not love them less, so how could I think of loving an unborn child less? That made a big impression on her regarding my unconditional love.

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mom and daughter having a talk on the couch, how to make the talk with your teen less cringy

6. Chat about Mistakes, Ask for Forgiveness, and Discuss How to Improve

Letting children hear you apologize encourages them to forgive you and others. It lets them know we're human and not perfect. It also helps them be flexible and adaptable as we work to recover from a mistake and view it as a learning process. That helps children stress less when they are imperfect and admit mistakes and problems they caused, like breaking a toy or dish. It nurtures open communication. Pray with your children to ask God's forgiveness too. Help them learn to laugh at little mistakes like putting on two different shoes, spilling a drink, or even mixing up answers on a test. Instead of embarrassing, it becomes a funny anecdote.

Let family communication include inside jokes and stories as well as written notes of encouragement. When my children were young, and I was exhausted at dinner, I finished eating and said, "I am so full. What I really need is an apple." One son dashed to a bowl on the counter and brought me an apple. I stared at it until my husband remarked, "You said what you really wanted was an apple." I laughed and explained I meant to say napkin. It became a family joke to ask someone who may have said the wrong word or seemed tired if they wanted an apple. It's part of loving communication.

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Tough Love That Prepares Children for the Real World

7. Setting Boundaries and Rules Shows You Care about Your Child's Safety and Health 

Including the need for good food to grow strong, safety around electricity, awareness and caution around strangers, and other rules assures children you want the best for them. Accidents may still happen, and children may test the boundaries, but those provide time to nurse the hurts and show unconditional love and forgiveness. Tough love also means facing the pitfalls and consequences of poor choices, like drugs. For such struggles, lend support but do not enable them, plus seek professional guidance that shows you care enough to find solutions.

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Dad disciplining his daughter

8. Enforce Rules with Appropriate Consequences and Guide Children to Develop Good Character

Hebrews 12:6-11 reminds us that God uses discipline as part of loving us. It develops respect for authority, self-control, and peaceful lifestyles. Consequences remind children that you are in charge and allow you to state your love and concern for their well-being. Rules help children develop social skills like learning to share, being polite, and treating others kindly. Those qualities nurtured help them learn to live in peace. They appreciate this more as adults when they realize you made choices that prepared them for adulthood.

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9. Expect Children to Be Responsible

9. Expect Children to Be Responsible

Expect children to be responsible and applaud when they follow through with chores, schoolwork, and caring interactions. That reinforces good choices. It helps them develop trustworthiness. With any task, be sure they understand how to do it and are capable. If it's a new chore, do it with them first to help them learn how to complete the work. Learning to do chores develops life skills. Appreciate the work they accomplish and meeting goals. Praise shows your love and joy in their abilities. Some of these activities kids dislike when young but come to appreciate as they grow up. That's when they realize you showed love through accountability. When my first child left home to work in another city, she called to say she really appreciated our love and helping her become a responsible adult.

When two of my children made a poor choice and were caught by the people in charge, the leader wanted to forgive and forget. We suggested they serve at an upcoming event to show remorse. Everyone agreed. It helped them become more responsible. Later when a major storm hit our home, they willingly pitched in to clean up and served in the area to help families hit harder.

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Invest in Long Term Loving Bonds That Build Lasting Connections

10. Invest Time in Your Child to Show You Value Togetherness

Play, eat, and work together. This develops a sense of belonging and being an accepted part of the family. In play, laugh more than trying to win. At meals, make sure everyone gets to talk. Look your child in the eyes while smiling to show your joy at being with them. Share housework with kids helping to sort laundry, clean the yard and home, plus a break to look at the difference helping out makes. Make sure the time invested adds joy to life with positive words. Snap photos to capture the memories and display them to show how much you value them. When my husband got a raise we shared the blessing with our children with a desired gift or celebration. Our oldest son copied that with ice cream for the family bought with his first paycheck.

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11. Create Routine

Routines support social development as children understand what's expected and learn how to progress through the day. It connects them to hygiene, like brushing their teeth and getting enough sleep, and provides predictable activities. Rituals such as how you tuck a child into bed, reading before sleeping, and hugs help develop a family identity that helps a child develop lasting bonds. Those connections help a child feel loved as they can participate in the routines and meet expectations of getting ready for the day and the night.

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happily family relaxing on Sabbath in bed

12. Traditions and Special Activities Build Loving Bonds

Something as simple as calling children simply to express love or bless them with a bottle of bubbles and time to play outside builds pleasant memories. The more significant events like field trips, picnics, and vacations create shared memories over the years. This can include adventure that excites the child, whether it's an escape room, axe throwing, or white-water rafting. It helps a child see you want to join in the fun as they grow. Traditions and even special foods at holidays can draw families together as they grow and be customs they pass on to connect the generational bonds of love. It builds a heritage and leaves a legacy of love.

It's great to see children mature and yet stay connected as they build their lives. It's heartwarming to have them call, support their aging parents, and joyfully gather as a family to celebrate their love.

Showing love doesn't stop when children leave home. Hopefully, the bonds built will keep connections strong. Continuing to show love in words and actions, supporting those adult decisions, and investing time in one another will continue to reinforce the feelings of approval, acceptance, belonging, and assurance they need.

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Karen Whiting is a mom, author, international speaker, writing coach, and former television host who loves sharing ideas to strengthen families. She has written Growing a Mother’s Heart: Devotions of Faith, Hope, and Love from Mothers Past, Present, and Future and 52 Weekly Devotions for Family Prayerwhich includes a different way to pray each week plus stories and activities to explore questions children ask about prayer. Her newest book, Growing a Joyful Heart co-authored with Pam Farrel, shares stories that show how to have inner joy, more joy in relationships, choose joy in all circumstances, and become a joy-giver. She loves adventure including camel riding, scuba diving, treetop courses, and white water rafting plus time at home crafting and baking.

Originally published Tuesday, 19 March 2024.