By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
As a busy parent, trying to keep up with life’s demands and doing your best to hold it all together, you might not be thinking about the importance of making each of your children feel seen. After all, you love them and provide for their needs. Do you really have to make them feel noticed?
The short answer is yes, but before you start to feel overwhelmed, please know it’s not as difficult as it sounds. There are simple, everyday ways to make each of your children feel special. These mindful practices can easily become part of your family dynamic (with significant impact).
So, if you’re looking for ways to be more intentional with your children, and help each of them feel seen, check out these four tried-and-true tips.
1. Spend One-On-One Time with Them Every Day
Now, I already know what you’re thinking. There’s not enough time or energy in the day to spend one-on-one time with each child. I get it. From the early morning hustle to bedtime routines, most of us struggle to get dinner on the table, let alone spend individual time with our children. However, it doesn’t take much effort to single out each child for some quality one-on-one time.
I still remember one night when I was tucking my second-born son into bed. He was the quiet one who always seemed to fly under the radar. Earlier in the day, I’d bought a notebook with his favorite cartoon character on the front. With a sharpie, I’d written “Bedtime Notebook” at the top. I hid it under his mattress, so I could surprise him when I tucked him in.
That simple notebook became a fun evening ritual for us. In it, we drew pictures, wrote funny stories, played word games, and most importantly, connected. He is almost 30 years old now and still remembers that bedtime notebook.
You can spend daily time with each of your children, and all it takes is a bit of creativity. Here are a few more ideas:
- Take a walk around the block
- Let them help you cook dinner
- Allow them to tag along on errands
- Exercise together
Even a few minutes before bed can make all the difference in helping each of your children feel seen and loved. Don’t worry about how much time you spend one-on-one; simply make them a priority and see the difference it makes!
2. Offer to Help Them, Not Fix Them
When our kids are struggling, it’s easy to do one of two things: Try to fix it or ignore it. Neither of these is a good option in helping our children feel seen and understood.
Instead, why not offer to help them find a solution? For example:
- If they’re struggling in school, offer to be their “study buddy.”
- If they’re feeling down, suggest going outside, getting a healthy snack, or dancing in the living room.
- If they’re self-isolating, encourage them to have a friend over, start a new hobby, or join a club at school.
Most of the time, our children aren’t asking us to fix things; they just want us to listen and point them in the right direction. Doing this lets them know they can depend on you for help without being overbearing. This is a good way to be aware of their struggles without feeling the need to fix everything.
3. Empathize with Them, Even When You Don’t Understand
Empathy is different from sympathy in saying, “I don’t fully understand what you’re going through, but I can imagine how you must feel.”
This can go a long way in helping your children feel seen and build a deeper connection with you. It’s a sure way of letting them know that no matter what they’re going through, you are always available. Whether you understand them or not, being empathetic lets them know you genuinely care. Here are a few ways to show empathy:
If your child is insecure, say something like, “I can see how shy you are around other people. Are you afraid you won’t be accepted? How can I help you feel more confident?”
If your child is moody, say something like, “It seems like your mood is trying to get the best of you. Instead of pouting, can you tell me what is really bothering you?”
If your child gives up easily, say something like, “You know, we all feel like giving up at times, but when we keep trying, we almost always succeed. Will you try again?”
Whatever differences between you and your child, try not to let them stop you from being empathetic. Instead, use their weaknesses as opportunities to let them know you’re there for them, even when you don’t fully understand.
4. Let Them Know God Sees, Hears, and Loves Them
The most important thing a parent can do is let their children know God sees them, hears them, and loves them. By regularly reminding them of this, you’re assuring them there is a God who sees.
In fact, it was Hagar in the Bible who said, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13) If you’re familiar with this Old Testament account, you know that Hagar was Sarah’s maidservant who had been given to Abraham to produce an heir. The situation became worse when Sarah mistreated Hagar, causing her to flee to the desert. God reached out to Hagar at her lowest moment and said comforting words to her. It was then that she gave Him the name, “The God who sees.” Consider sharing this Bible story with your children and following it with the reminder that God sees, hears, and loves them, too. Point out the ways in which God has blessed them and wants to be in a relationship with them.
Here are a few discussion starters to consider:
“God loves you so much, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for you.”
"God already knows your struggles, but He wants you to talk to Him about them.”
“Even when it seems like God doesn’t hear you, He does. He hears every word before you even speak it!”
Encourage your children to establish a daily prayer habit, talk with God, and develop a relationship with Him. How important it is to let our children know that the Lord knows them and sees them!
Listen, I know life is busy. A hundred things are vying for our attention on any given day. But making our children a priority is more important than most things on our to-do lists. We can be purposeful in our parent/child relationships. All it takes is a bit of creativity and intentionality on our part. And once we put these things into practice, they’ll become a regular part of our routine and make our kids feel seen.
Gracious God, thank You for each of our children and the uniqueness in which You created them. Help us, Lord, to be more intentional about making them feel seen. In our day-to-day schedules, remind us that our relationship with our kids is more valuable than much of what we think is important. Help us take a step back and reevaluate where we spend our time. Prompt us to put our phones down and turn off the media so that we have plenty of one-on-one time with our children each day. Give us the creativity to make our time special and fun. When we try to rush through things, help us slow down and enjoy the moment. Please give us open ears to listen, open hearts to understand, and open eyes to see. We pray these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.
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