It is important for children to be respected for who they are. They are not mini-adults and should not be expected to act like adults. Children are in the very long process of learning to manage their bodies and feelings. We know this is difficult to master because as adults we often fail to respond appropriately in all situations. Children need to be accepted for who they are-valued because they are valuable.
A friend of mine from England told me once that she thought America is not really a child friendly country. In England, they offer special parking spaces for pregnant women near the front of the store, diaper changing areas in both men and women’s restrooms, and more child friendly stores and restaurants. I have had other conversations with people that also believe that in general, America as a whole does not value children.
Children need to feel valued and appreciated by their parents and other adults in the community. Community is defined in whatever way you choose, but could include extended family, your faith community, neighborhood, and friends.
As single parents the constant need to let our children of divorce know that they are loved can seem overwhelming at times, but here are some of the ways we can help children feel valued and appreciated:
• Spend quality time with your own children playing games, or talking. If you let them choose the activity, they will know that what they want matters to you.
• Be calm when responding to children-even if they are not. Respectfully listening to them without reacting to them will go a long way. This is especially applicable to toddlers and teenagers.
• When you see family friends in the supermarket (or wherever) say hello to their children and include them in the conversation.
• Go ga-ga over young children’s creative endeavors. Sincerely tell them what you like about their drawing, finger painting or sock puppet play.
• When you see an older child doing something well, tell him or her specifically what you like about what they are doing.
• Children need continual encouragement and reassurance that you care about them. Saying, “I love you” only occasionally is not going to sustain their need for approval from parents. You can show your love in many different ways-such as telling them, slipping a note in their lunch box or giving a reasonable gift-just because you love them.