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Expressing Love

Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich


When my children were very young, we used "love rocks" as a way to share our love with each other. When one of us would be gone for a period of time (maybe an overnight trip, or just a long day at school), we would find a rock, squeeze it to fill it with love, and then give it to the other person. Usually, I'd be the love-rock giver, but there were times when my kids would give me a love rock to cheer me.


The love between parent and child is the foundation of a strong and healthy relationship. It's the basis of a secure attachment and sets your child up for a lifetime of positive, supportive connections with others. The ways we show love are limited only by our imagination and creativity. Make a "Love List" with your kids and describe all the different ways you express your love for each other. Below are some ideas that my daughter Shayna (7) and I put on our Love List.


Shayna and Mom's Love List   


Mommy and Me Time: Let your child pick an activity that she'd like to do with you. Then turn off your cell phone to give your full attention. Shayna and I spent twenty minutes last night drawing together, with the door closed and a sign on the door that read "Just Mommy and Me Time!" When we were done, Shayna said, "I love when you are just mine.” That's not always possible, but 20 minutes every few days is doable and gives her my love in just the way she likes it.


Laughing Fits: Uncontrolled laughter is a surefire way for Shayna and me to feel close!


These aren't easy to plan, but Shayna loves when we dissolve into "can't catch our breath" laughter. Planning helps me make sure I relax and enjoy these spontaneous moments and know that they are not only about humor, but also about intimacy. Click here to see the "Laugh Night" activity.


Good Stuff: I make time to keep a list of Good Stuff that happened each day and talk for a few minutes about how she felt when she noticed the good thing.


Private Language: Shayna loves special words that are just for us.


We often make up new words before bed at night and then talk for a few minutes in our very own language. We're careful not to use our private language when it would make her brothers feel excluded (although at 14-, 14- and 12-years-old, it's not as much of an issue as it would be with siblings closer in age).


Praise: Shayna feels my love when I praise her.


As much as possible, I try to use "process praise," where I name specifically how she brought about a positive outcome. Process praise shows her that I was watching and noticed not just what she said or did, but how she said or did it. Click here to read more about How Not to Talk to Your Kids and Praise with Purpose.


Symbols: Love rocks are a symbol my family uses to show love for each other. Valentine's Day is a fun time to choose a new family symbol of love.


We also give each other fuzz balls or beads — small things that you can tuck into a pocket when a little dose of love is needed.


The Love List for each of my four children is different and likely will be for your children as well.


Aaron feels my love when we do projects together or when I scratch his back. Jonathan's list includes lying in bed together reading. Jacob's Love List features sharing witty repartee! Although I haven't made an actual Love List with my teenage sons (I think they might very well run from the room screaming if I asked), I do pay attention to how they like to receive my love and make sure that I express my adoration for them in the ways that most touch their hearts!


When you show love to your children, they not only feel positive emotions, but also learn how to express love.


Karen Reivich, Ph.D.