Lots of childhood memories get blurred as kids grow into adulthood. Lots of specifics regarding places you went or things you did as a family might get fuzzy. But there are some things your child will never forget, and will always be grateful for.
1. Physical affirmation. Hug your kids A LOT. Feeling your arms wrapped around them gives them a security that nothing else can replace. Even when they go through a “rebel” stage and seem to be rejecting your affection, make sure you continue offering it and let them reject it. They’re rebellion could reflect numerous things – they might just be trying to discover who they are as an individual and, in so doing, want a little distance, or them might be caving in to peer pressure and don’t want to appear too close to their parents. Either way, regardless of their external distance, they still draw great internal security from knowing that you want to hug them even when they reject it.
2. Spending time with you. It doesn’t really matter what you do. It might be just talking and laughing together, or doing chores, running errands, studying together, playing together or having family activities and outings. Time is precious, and our kids learn that very early on because they see us focusing so much time on different things, and they often get told “not now, I don’t have time.” Prioritizing time with our children is very important. It not only helps us get to know them and watch them grow up. It also tells them that THEY are important. Our kids should never feel like they need to compete with our computer (or whatever else drains so much of our time) for our attention. They need to be our priority, and they need to know that we WANT to spend time with them, even when it means sacrificing something else (in fact, it will ALWAYS mean sacrificing something else).
3. Being understood. Being a parent can be hard, but being a kid is tough too. They’re coping with a lot of new emotions and ideas, and make a lot of mistakes in the process of learning new things. It’s easy for kids to feel like grownups always know everything (not true) and kids are always messing up (not true either). Childhood is a beautiful reality, but a challenging one also. To help our kids recognize the beauty and overcome the challenges takes a lot of understanding. Remember that you were a child once also. When guiding your child, make sure they know that you understand them. This will bring them closer to you now, but also in the future when they will feel comfortable approaching you over important issues in their life.
4. Having family traditions. Family traditions play a key role in establishing your family identity. Your children will always remember the values and principles underlying your traditions, and will have great memories of all the moments you spent together. Many of your traditions might even get carried into your children’s future families. Traditions don’t just refer to holiday and birthday activities and treats – daily, weekly and monthly traditions are also important. Maybe you have a family night each week, or a cuddle spot where you read each night before bed. These are also traditions that work their way into your child’s heart and become “home”.
5. Homemade… anything. Whether it’s a birthday cake, hand written note, or DIY gift, your child will greatly appreciate the things you personally make for them. Whether they’re expensive or not doesn’t matter; they’re irreplaceable. Even if you aren’t crafty or the cake is a little gloppy, your child will feel loved in a special way because you took the time to do something for them and you made something with them alone in mind.
6. Family meals. Don’t forget to eat together as a family. Yes, it means rearranging your schedule to make sure everyone coincides at home at the same time for either lunch or dinner, and your kids might balk at having to give up certain activities to be able to have family time, but in the long run, they’ll appreciate it. Being together for lunch or dinner helps anchor you as a family. It’s a reminder that your unity as a family is important, even more important than passing events, fun as they may be. Years later, your children will still remember all that you talked and laughed about during your family meals, and the many essential lessons they learned from that time.
7. Celebrating successes. Make sure you celebrate your child’s successes. They will always feel a special fulfillment knowing that you were proud of them. For a child, knowing that your parents are happy with you means a lot and goes a long way in helping you establish a healthy self-esteem. Make sure you give your child that opportunity and security. It could be simply saying “great job” when they finish their chores or taking them out for some one-on-one time for a special accomplishment, or making a surprise dessert to congratulate them for something.
8. Knowing that you love them as they are. Even when they’re not successful. Even when they’re not behaving. It’s important for them to know that THEY are enough. Take the time to let you know how much you love hearing them sing (not because they have a great voice or won a prize – just because they are singing), or how much you love watching them play soccer (again, regardless of how talented they are or not). Yes, you celebrate their successes, but you don’t love them because they’re successful. You love them just because they’re them.
Think back to your own childhood. What else do you remember well that you are grateful for? Add whatever comes to mind to you list of what you want to pass on to your kids!