It’s been a challenging year for families. From quarantines and homeschooling to being unable to take normal vacations, family stress has been amped up. But, if this year has taught us anything, it’s to appreciate the people we love, and be thankful for having them healthy and well in our lives. So, on this Valentine’s day, Parentology is highlighting ways to show your entire family love.
Highlight the Little Things
Grand gestures aren’t the only way to express affection. Showing your appreciation for little things has just as much impact. Ample opportunities present themselves for congratulating loved ones: a passed driver’s test, improved grades, or a promotion at work. Call attention to and celebrate these victories.
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologists, Dr. D’Arcy Lyness shared recommendations for how to do this for children in a KidsHealth article. Per Lyness, avoid focusing praise only on results or fixed qualities, like winning an athletic match-up or getting an A on a test. Praise children for their progress and improved performance to boost in self-esteem over ego. Also, say thank you. Expressing your gratitude for their efforts gives kids the gift of confidence.
“Self-esteem grows when kids get to see that what they do matters to others,” Lyness said. “Kids can help out at home, do a service project at school, or do a favor for a sibling.”
And yes, the same applies to adults, too.
Spend Time Together (In New Ways)
We’ve been forced to be together over the last year, but it’s often been filled with getting things done. So how do we flip the narrative and spend time with family members in our bubble — be it an aunt, sibling, grandparent, child or spouse — and do something special?
Trying sharing a family meal in a special location — like a picnic in a park where you’ll be in a new (ideally outdoor) environment seeing and doing new things. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) found that sharing meals with your family is incredibly important.
“Compared to teens who had infrequent family dinners…teens who had frequent family dinners were almost 1.5 times likelier to have said they had an excellent relationship with their mother,” CASA reports, “and 1.5 times likelier to have said they had an excellent relationship with their father.”
If a meal is impossible, try some other ideas:
- Do a Valentine’s crafting project. Make old-school cards for friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Spending this time together creates new memories
- Go bike-riding in the neighborhood
- Play a board-game you loved in your youth
- Bake Valentine’s treats for a neighbor or loved one
- Try a new takeout restaurant
As for extended family members, make time to show up. Attend Zoom dance recitals, mow grass for an elder, chat over a cup of tea. You’ll reap as many rewards as they do.
Being spontaneous can help freshen up your family dynamic and mixes up the regular routine. These are the kinds of things that create new memories.
Listening to a loved one voice their concerns, opinions, stressors, mistakes, and accomplishments can help improve your bond. Welcome in all their emotions, and validate their feelings. But… don’t feel the need to give your input. The act of simply listening is a gift unto itself.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Laura Markham, finds it important to listen and empathize with your loved ones, especially your children.
“The habit of seeing things from your child’s perspective will ensure that you treat [them] with respect and look for win/win solutions,” Markham said in an article for Psychology Today. “It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. ”
Listen, be receptive to needs and open to adjustments. These things alone can transform your relationships and, of course, show your love.
How to Show Your Family Love — Sources
15 Ways You Can Show Your Kids You Love Them — Every Day
3 Steps to Improve the Relationships in Your Family Circle
15 Ways to Show Your Family You Love Them
KidsHealth: Your Child’s Self-Esteem
10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship