Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in private practice for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University ...Read More
Giving gifts is a wonderful way to tell someone you value them or are thinking of them. But, most of the gifts we give to each other, especially our children, tend to be material in nature. Clothing, meals, movies, vacations and phones are the “things” of daily life that we need to some extent and that give us pleasure. But, perhaps the best gifts are those that come from your heart; the ones that strengthen the relationship between you and your child in a way that no tangible gift can match. Here are 5 such gifts that your child will never forget if you are deliberate and consistent about giving them.
The gift of affirmation
Perhaps the greatest of all gifts is the value you instill in your child through your affirmations. These affirmations shape their view of themselves. Because they trust you, they take your words to heart. Don’t just say “good job” on the next task they do well. Be specific. For example, “I really appreciated the extra effort you put into cleaning your room. You were thorough and finished the job completely.” Or, “That was very kind of you to share your sandwich with your sister. I love that you are so thoughtful.” Your child regularly needs to hear that you value them but they also need to understand why.
The gift of curiosity
Young children are naturally curious. That’s the reason they incessantly ask “why” questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly instead of walk? But, about the time they start school much of that natural curiosity starts to wane. It is replaced with large doses of mandatory learning that they try to digest. Unfortunately, this information indigestion eventually chokes out much of their natural curiosity and replaces it with learning that carries a “have to” mentality. To keep vibrant curiosity alive, encourage your child to ask questions, tell stories about interesting people, explore nature together and raise issues around the dinner table that invite interesting conversation and thought.
The gift of imagination
There is a shortage of imaginative energy among children today. Instead of building a fort in the back yard, playing in the sand box or practicing a musical instrument, they spend the bulk of their non-school time engaged with various media. These include television, the internet, video games, social media and texting, among others. Sure, there is a shred of creativity in these electronic activities. But, why not give them alternatives that greatly stimulate their imagination. Draw, paint, read aloud, build something, take a hike in the woods, cook a meal together, look at the clouds during the day or the stars at night. Be deliberate about offering your child imaginative alternatives to the gadgets that are so ubiquitous.
The gift of being free to make mistakes
Think about something you are good at doing. Now, consider how long it took you to be good at it. We build competence by practicing. Children have to learn how to do virtually everything from scratch. Of course, as a parent, you already know this. But it’s easy to forget the steep learning curve your child goes through on a continual basis – even into the teen years. Give your child a wide berth to make mistakes. Instead of responding with fury or disappointment to the spilled milk, the lost coat, the fender bender in the new car, or the disrespectful attitude, try to see them as practice for improvement. You might find some additional empathy for child by thinking about your journey learning these same tasks at their age.
The gift of having a forum for feelings
The home is the training ground for how we learn to communicate. The most effective communication involves the sharing of emotion. It is through emotion that we feel close and secure in our relationships. But, there is a whole spectrum of different emotions. The “positive” ones, like love, tenderness and joy are easy for most to share and receive. It is those “negative” emotions (although they aren’t), that we have more difficulty hearing from our children: anger, fear, sad, disgust and envy, among others. But, don’t just allow them to talk about their feelings (both positive and negative), encourage them to do so. By creating an open forum for feelings you give your child a chance to practice making sense of their emotion and putting them into words. Model this behavior for your child by openly discussing how you feel about circumstances.