You might be saying, “Tell your kids you love them with words—like “ I love you”? Aaah, I can’t do that. My parents didn’t tell me they loved me. They just knew that we knew. And my kids are the same way. They know we love them by how we treat them. They just know.”
Well, certainly, a part of that statement (which I have heard many times from parents) is, indeed, true. Kids gain security, trust, and stability by how they are treated by their parents (and in some cases, grandparents or extended family). Kids become stable when their lives are stable. They gain confidence when they learn they can count on you. Even things like being picked up from school on time—every day or having a routine at home—a morning routine, a bedtime routine, etc. They, also benefit from knowing the parameters within which they are expected to function in your home. Clarity of these parameters gives them freedom—the freedom of security. Not knowing what is acceptable to you is very stressful and upsetting to a child. Be clear with your guidance and guidelines.
But, in addition to the caring, helpful, stable life you create for your children in your home, there is value in expressing your love for them. Kids need to hear those words. There are so many instances of non-loving things that they are exposed to in each and every day that the comfort of your arms and your words is endearing and reassuring.
Kids learn by modeling. I am sure you hope that your child would know and be able to express love in his/her life. Ok—then model this. Model this through your own attentive behavior, through your actions, and through your words.
For most of our lives, my brothers and I did not hear the words “I love you” from our parents—particularly our dad. We knew that he loved us—and he was a wonderful father—a devoted, attentive, honorable father. We could not have asked for more. He just couldn’t say those words!! But, my siblings (and all of our spouses) would close our conversations by saying “I love you, Dad”. And, we were all pleased to note that one day—and every day after that—he closed his conversations or visits with us by telling us that he loved us. He had never been told this as a child—and he just didn’t know how to do that. But, he learned.
Let your kids start learning now.
Don’t let a day go by without saying “I love you” to your children. When you drop them at school, send them off by telling them you will see them after school and that you love them. Give them a hug and tell them you love them before you turn off the lights at night. Let them go to sleep with those words in their conscious and subconscious brain—and in their heart. I love you. Three of the most important words you will ever say to your child.