Love is the Drug that Kids Need
We love our kids. We love our kids beyond our own comprehension, let alone theirs. So we tell them and we assume that they hear us. But do they? Do they know that our love is truly unconditional?
At a recent talk, Jennifer Kolari, author of Connected Parenting, says we need to make our kids feel delicious, loved and adored. She quotes writer and physician Gabor Mate who says: “Love is the drug children need”.
Isn’t that beautiful and scary all at once? Love is the drug, and we are the pushers.
They only way that kids know how much you love them is if you tell them repeatedly ad nauseum. And to be truly effective you have to say it at totally random times and not when it is connected to an event like “Oh you cleared the dishes, I love you!” and “That is a great picture, I love you.” or “You let me sleep in until 11 and did a load of laundry. I really love you!” Kids need to be surprised by our proclamations of love and just like they need to eat more than once a day, they need to fed the love drug more than once a day.
Kolari says to give love in surprising ways -- talk baby talk, squeeze them, show them their baby pictures and be gushy. She says this way of talking actually bypasses the language centre of the bran and releases endorphins and makes kids feel soothed. Providing verbal proof of your love can be a powerful weapon in the teen years which doesn’t mean your kid will turn around and wrap their arms around you tell you they love you too. But they may tell you where they are going when they walk out the door. Kolari says “baby play” pinching cheeks, tickling and being silly makes kids feel good no matter how old they are.
When I took courses with Beverly Cathcart-Ross from the Parenting Network she said that that you should connect lovingly with your kids at least three times a day. She refers to these as "greetings" -- times when you tell your kids that you love them without them having earned it. Unconditional love is letting them know that your love is not based on their behaviour. First thing in the morning before they have even done anything (good or bad) is a good place to start.
To parents of babies this may sound like a ridiculously obvious task but for parents who are going through challenging times saying ‘I love you no matter what you do or say’ three times a day may seem like a momentous chore.
The words do matter. There is nothing more powerful then I love you, it doesn’t need to be saved for a special occasion and it doesn’t wear out. Sometimes it can be hard to say it to a child who is challenging you at every turn but those are the times when they need to hear it the most.
Kolari asks: “What will they remember? They will remember how they felt and you want them to remember feeling loved.”