Parenting Matters: Supporting your children

No matter how old your child is, a child needs to feel loved and supported by their family. A survey involving 250,000 children tried to figure out what causes children to feel loved and supported.

While none of this is new, this original study helps parents focus on ways to support as parents.

Let’s look at ways parents can help their child feel loved and supported:

• Give lots of hugs and verbal messages of love to your kids. Don’t assume they know how much you love them. Tell them frequently.

• It isn’t just the words that count, it is also your tone of voice and your body language that needs to say “I love you.”

• Make sure you ask your child what way you tell them you love them that feels comfortable for them. Every child is different and you want to respect their boundaries.

• Eat together at least one meal a day.

• Set aside evenings every week for family activities. Let everyone make suggestions of what to do. These do not have to be expensive or extensive times together. You can share a game or talk about your next trip. You just need some time when you all want to be together.

• If you have more than one child, spend time regularly with each child individually. It doesn’t’ have to be a long time but some time that helps them see that your time together is important time for you.

• Let your children see you be loving to your partner. This is how they learn about love. This can be as loving as holding hands or talking together to show your love.

• Let the value of school come across from you to your child. Don’t take over what they are doing but do encourage them. Be interested in what they are learning as you should be interested in many things they do.

• Be available to your kids when they want to talk. Remember that a child who hangs around may be asking to talk. If you are always too busy they will find other people who are interested in what they have to say or they will learn to keep everything to themselves.

• When your child talks, it is important for you to listen. You may not always agree but don’t put down what your child is saying. At the end of the conversation, people on either side should feel good.

• Ask your children for their opinions on different topics. This helps them feel their view or their knowledge has importance.

• Encourage your child to volunteer in the community. This is something we all should do.

Your role is key

Being a parent is a very complex role. You have a critical place in helping your child feel good about himself.

Let him feel you value him and his views on life. Let him feel you respect him.

Even let him know you have high expectations for him that will encourage him to succeed.

We have learned from research that one of the most powerful determinants of children’s success is the kind of expectations parents set for them. This is what encourages a child to try new possibilities and improve their self-confidence.

It is a fine line between expecting too much or expecting too little. If you expect too much your child may feel he is a disappointment to you. If you expect too little your child loses his incentive to try new possibilities. Keep your messages positive; teach him to send positive messages to himself. This is a great lesson for his future.

Enjoy your children. Let them know you enjoy them. Talk together, laugh together, and certainly share a positive life together.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach her at

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