NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, and while we usually think about romantic love on this day, child experts say we should also think about how our children feel loved and lovable.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers families 14 tips on how to show your children love on Valentine’s Day and everyday.
10 On Your Side sat down with Parent Educator Michele Tryon from Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to talk about using these tips and other ways to show your love.
“The words that we use with our children become their inner dialogue so, if your child hears that ‘You’re capable, you’re confident, you’re cared about,’ then they start to believe that,” Tryon said.
The AAP suggests having a heart to heart conversation with your child.
Tryon said you can start by asking, “How was your day?” If they don’t want to talk, she said that’s OK. Some kids don’t like to talk and will feel pressured by this. Instead maybe you try engaging in an activity. She suggested a family game night or cooking together.
“Do something that’s heart healthy,” Tryon said. “Maybe a Valentine’s theme so maybe some red berries or they could cut something into the shape of a heart.”
Showing love is going to be different for every child.
Tryon suggested learning your child’s love language as defined in the book “The 5 Love Languages of Children,” by Gary Chapman.
The languages are:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Tryon said you will know your child’s language by what they ask for.
“So if a child asks for a hug or is constantly touching you then you know it’s physical touch,” Tryon said. “If a child says, ‘Do you like my picture, or do you like the way I dance, they are asking for words of affirmation. If it’s quality time, they’ll say ‘Come play with me.’ If it’s acts of service, they’ll say ‘Can you help me with such and such, or can I help you?'”
AAP reminds parents also to always discipline with love. Harsh physical and verbal punishments, experts say, don’t work and can damage long-term physical and mental health.
“Children thrive when there is structure and they know what the expectations are,” Tryon said.
She added that you should praise kids when they follow the rules and quickly follow through on the consequences when rules are broken. Help them figure out how to do better. Forgive them and forgive yourself, Tryon said, during your not so proud parenting moments.
“We can also say to our child, ‘I wish I had handled that differently,'” Tryon said. “That gives them permission to make mistakes and ask for forgiveness as well.”
Also, Tryon warns to be prepared when they come home from school with those shoe boxes of valentines. They may need to talk or get a hug because sometimes love hurts.
“If they didn’t get a Valentine from the person they were hoping to get a Valentine from, we want to be there to support them, work through that challenge, because life does have some disappointments in it.”