I have worked with thousands of parents and children over my career, and one of the most heart-breaking things I hear from kids is when they share how invisible they feel. These kids confess that nearly all the conversations they have with their parents focus on what they either should do, or should not do; they tell me that they feel like who they are is a disappointment to their parents…and they suffer enormously, feeling alone and lonely.
When we feel genuinely seen—children and adults alike—we relax, knowing that we are safe and loved. While “I love you” and “You’re wonderful!” are lovely things to say, the words themselves may not always make an impact. And of course when the majority of our interactions with our children are filled with suggestions or criticisms, something in them withers and withdraws.
Humans all need to know that they are loved and lovable just as they are. When a child feels seen and enjoyed—as they are — something in their whole being comes to life.
The next time your youngster walks in the room, try acknowledging something about them that delights you. It could be, “Honey, I loved how sweet you were with the puppy. You’re so patient—I need to learn a thing or two from you!”
Or you could offer something like, “Sweetheart, whenever I hear you humming, my heart does a little twirl. It makes me so happy, just hearing your voice.”
While expressions of appreciation are precious to kids, one of the best ways we convey to our child how much they means to us has little to do with what we say. When our face lights up when our child walks into the room, or we infuse our voice with warmth when we say our child’s name, the message has been delivered—our child is dearly loved and cherished.
Finally, it is in the quality of our engagement and attention that our children sense what they mean to us. Do you hold up a finger when your child walks in the room, saying, “Just a minute. I’m almost finished with this email…” or are you able to mostly disengage from what you’re doing for a moment to greet her with kindness and affection?
When your child knows that you see her unique qualities and that she is celebrated for being exactly who she is, something in her comes to life. And wouldn’t you know it–the power struggles are far less frequent.
Try letting your child know what he means to you. If you haven’t already, check out my home page to receive the short Love Flooding video that has a simple but powerful exercise that will help you strengthen attachment through with your child.