Our littlest loves: 10 ways to show you care

Sometimes in the haze of long work days -- or too much TV -- we unintentionally forget the fine art of family communication. Days can go by without a pat on the back or a hug in the hallway. And yet, few parents can deny the inner confidence that unconditional love inspires. Love will not only help your child to blossom, but will teach him or her the skills to express love in all future relationships. As a parent, what better gift can you possibly give?

Here are some ideas that can help you express your love on a daily basis:

  1. Tell it like it is. "I love you," said sincerely at least once a day, will be a great way to start letting your child know how important he or she is to you. Another way to communicate love is to take "mental notes" when you come across something that reminds you of your child so you can share it later. Just knowing that she is in your thoughts will make her feel special.
  2. Go on a date. Especially if you have two or more children, one-on-one time is a great way to bond with each child individually. First, examine the child's interests and hobbies. Is your nine-year-old a daredevil biker? Then dust off your ten speed and join him for a ride to a special picnic destination. Is your child fascinated with animals? Then take a day trip to the zoo.
  3. Post a compliment. Ever morning, scribble a quick compliment for your child on a Post-It note. Be sure to make the comment specific: "I thought it was very nice that you shared your brand new doll with your sister yesterday," or "That was a lovely thank-you card you sent Grandma." Then, stick the sentiment to your child's pillow, post on the front door, or hide it in a lunch box for a midday surprise.
  4. Make a photo album. Photo albums are a terrific way to highlight the loving times that families share. And you probably have a few boxes of unsorted photos hanging around. In one afternoon, you and your child can have fun, recall special times, and organize the photographs into a family album. Perhaps your child can write humorous comments beneath the photographs, or decorate the pages with creative, construction paper designs. And while you are it, create a mini-album for your child to keep in her room.
  5. Crack open the books. Most parents are aware of the studies supporting the idea that reading from infancy can help to promote excellent academic skills later in life. But, just as important is the message of love you relay when you and your child snuggle together before delving into chapter eight of "Winnie the Pooh." Take the time to read to your child every day.
  6. Dinnertime pow-wows. Banish eating in front of the television, or grabbing munchies on the run. A regular, sit-down-at-the-table dinner routine will assure that busy family members have the time to regroup at least once each day. And it's easy to communicate that you respect and love your children when you are able to give them undivided attention as they recount the adventures of the day.
  7. Ask your kids how they want to be loved. Older children, in particular, may have plenty of ideas. Sometimes a sensitive child can zero-in on communication glitches that parents didn't even know existed. But be sure to act on your child's heartfelt suggestions.
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