We all know the feeling of longing to be appreciated, just for being us. Our kids have those same desires. Try it. Tell your kids you thank God for them often. Being loved is wonderful, but being appreciated and knowing someone is thankful you are part of their life is special.
Let them know:
YOU EXIST, THEREFORE YOU ARE LOVED!
Here are a few ways to show your children you are grateful for them:
Praise them for their character not just their accomplishments.
Our kids need to know they are loved for who they are not just what they can do. While there's nothing wrong with praising our children when they do something well, our praise must go beyond what they do if we want them to know they are loved unconditionally. Do you want your children to see God as someone who ALREADY loves them and wants the very best for them? Then treat them that way. When our children know we are grateful for their presence in our life, they come to see the boundaries and rules we set up as a result of that love, not a condition of it. They begin listening to us and trust us because they are confident we have their best interest at heart, rather than trying to obey us in order to earn our favor, or worse still, rejecting all of our advice because they think we are just trying to make their lives miserable.
Letting our children know we are grateful for them and love them unconditionally gives them the freedom to make mistakes. When we build their confidence that they are loved simply because they exist, their self-worth is less likely to be tied to their accomplishments. We free them from the fear of failure which grants them the ability to try hard things and discover new passions.
Shifting our focus to our children's character makes it more likely that, not only will our children have a more meaningful, healthy relationship with us, they will also have more meaningful, healthy relationships with others as well. Investing in our children's character is a long-term commitment, and it takes more than lip-service to cultivate. Character building is the product of intentionality and leading by example. It happens best when it is grown organically. Presenting our children with opportunities to exercise good character and to see us exhibiting good character is the best way to help them grow. Doing regular volunteer work together is one of the best ways to model and grow good character. When our children consistently see that life is best lived in a community of serving one another, they will grow up to be others focused, more aware of and willing to stand up against oppression in their society.
Spend time taking an interest in your child’s interests.
Running our children to ballgames, dance competitions or piano lessons is not bad, but again, these are works based activities that our kids often feel like they need to excel at to make us proud. Spending time doing something with your kids that they enjoy reinforces the idea that you are glad to have them around, that you care enough to take an interest in them. Many of these interactions means your kids will likely be the "teacher", explaining the rules to a particular video game, telling you all about the newest lingo, or showing you how to use a new app. This role reversal in a world where they are often being taught, leaves them feeling empowered, heard and valued. It builds their confidence and strengthens your bond.
Let them “catch you” talking good about them.
We probably all know that look when we tell our child they're smart or beautiful or funny. "You have to say that, you're my parent," they say. But we also probably all know the feeling of overhearing someone speak well of us. The compliment feels so genuine. Hearing someone say something nice ABOUT us has a much different effect than hearing someone say something nice TO us. Look for ways to have your kids "catch you" talking good about them to your spouse or a friend.
Keep a journal of letters to your kids. Instead of giving it to them as an adult, hand it to them periodically to read now.
There are many wonderful legacy journals out there. There's usually a question and room for a response. They're meant to be left to a loved one to read once you're old or no longer here. They're a very sweet gesture, but the kind of journal I'm referring to serves a different purpose. Writing to our kids now lets us say things we may not say out loud. It can sometimes be hard to have a heart to heart conversation with our kids, but writing provides the opportunity to express our gratitude for our children in a way we may not do aloud. It's also intentional and shows our children we took the time to stop and think about them. It gives them something to look back on when they may be feeling down, and there's just something about seeing words in print that make them feel more special than simply speaking them out loud.
Let your children know you're grateful for them. The relationship you cultivate with them will very likely determine the way they see themselves, the way they see others, and the way they see God.