Latter-day Saint Life

5 heartfelt ways to show your kids you love them—and that God loves them too

Happy Adult Mother Embracing Daughter
I have come to believe that the best way to teach our little ones God’s love—a heavenly parent’s love—is by example and through love from us, their earthly parents.
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The concept of God’s love can be a tough one to communicate as a parent. I have come to believe that the best way to teach our little ones God’s love—a heavenly parent’s love—is by example and through love from us, their earthly parents. Here are five simple ways I have found to help me communicate love to my child that I hope will then help them conceptualize and recognize God’s love.

1. Connect with Them

Not too long ago, I came across a quote in my social media feed that has stuck with me like glue. It said, “Little ones don’t say, ‘Mom, I’ve had a hard day.’ Instead, they say, ‘Mom, play with me.’”

Now, as parents, it’s not always feasible to drop everything we’re doing when the request for playtime comes, but since I read that quote, it has made me rethink the times I say yes and no. Is my son really asking for someone to play with right now, or is he asking for connection?

In my experience, taking time to connect with them in whatever ways we can opens so many doors for parents. It leads to important conversations and significant discoveries about our children’s wants, needs, interests, and worries, and in turn, we can make shifts in our parenting or our prayers for them.

We see this come up all the time in Christ’s earthly ministry, too. He used examples of deep connections and love in His parables constantly (the prodigal son and the good Samaritan, to name a couple). He washed His disciples’ feet as a demonstration of His own gratitude and love. On the cross, He asked John the Beloved to care for His mother, maybe because He knew they needed each other in their time of grief.

And when our children have a firsthand example of strong connections with people who care about them—especially loving earthly parents—it can also set the stage for them to develop the same kind of bond with unequivocally patient heavenly parents.

2. Kids Have Love Languages, Too

Personally, I am a big fan of the five love languages. If you need a refresher, the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts.

When I first heard about this concept as a young single adult, my mind was blown. I honestly felt like I understood myself so much better! I had seen relationships sour and friendships fizzle out because we weren’t “speaking the same language,” or at least “speaking the language” that mattered most to us. From that point on, I have tried to pay closer attention to and speak the love languages that were most important to the people I cared about.

And the same has been true in my personal parenting philosophies, but it’s something I’ve had to be conscious of and look for. My three-year-old son is active with a capital A. For him right now, he needs my love in the form of quality time and physical touch. I’ve learned the hard way that he does not care about toys or stuff—“receiving gifts” is not his love language. But it may be someday.

If we connect with our kids regularly (see the section above), we can be aware enough to adjust and help our kids feel loved in the ways that matter to them. And that awareness can lead to even more teaching moments with them or even an awareness of how to help them personally feel God’s love for them, too.

Because like it says in Matthew 7:11, “If ye… know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” God certainly knows the love languages that resonate with your child, and you as a parent can help them hear that language.

► You may also like: Did Jesus Christ use the 5 love languages in His ministry?

3. Affirmations

Everyone has hard days—kids included. And when a hug from a parent isn’t readily available, it helps if a child can lean on a “core memory” of love or a powerful, affirming statement when they’re feeling less than strong.

In the same vein, I know in some of my rockiest personal moments, the gospel truths that pop into my head come in the form of scripture: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” Affirmation statements—simple, empowering, beautiful truths—can have the same power for our littlest ones.

Some of my favorite affirmation statements that would ring true for both adults and kids include:

I am worthy and loved.
It’s OK to ask for help.
I am doing the best I can.
I am capable of amazing things.
It’s OK to start over and try again.
All of my feelings are valid.
It’s OK to have hard days.

4. Focus on the Positives

When I think about my relationship with God—not just His commandments or His requests of me—but my relationship with Him, I don’t think about all my imperfections or the ways I’ve fallen short with Him. I think about all the ways He has blessed me. I am reminded of all the things He has given me. And I am constantly recalling how much He loves me.

The same can be true with our kids. Even on days when parenting feels exhausting, we can vocally and mentally focus on the positives. How much we love them. How grateful we are to have them in our family. How funny they are. How smart they are. How kind or thoughtful or considerate or passionate they are.

And this exercise in positivity may prove helpful both for us and for them! In her general conference talk last October, Sister Tamara W. Runia shared an interesting thought exercise:

Shortly after Elder Neal A. Maxwell passed away, a reporter asked his son what he’d miss most. He said dinners at his parents’ house because he always left feeling like his dad believed in him.

This was around the time our adult children were starting to come home for Sunday dinners with their spouses. During the week, I found myself making lists in my mind of things I could remind them of on Sunday, like ‘Maybe try and help out more with the kids when you’re home’ or ‘Don’t forget to be a good listener.’

When I read Brother Maxwell’s comment, I threw away the lists and silenced that critical voice, so when I saw my grown children for that brief time each week, I focused on the many positive things they were already doing. When our oldest son, Ryan, passed away a few years later, I remember being grateful our time together was happier and more positive.

Before we interact with a loved one, can we ask ourselves the question ‘Is what I’m about to do or say helpful or hurtful?’ Our words are one of our superpowers, and family members are like human blackboards, standing in front of us saying, ‘Write what you think of me!’ These messages, whether intentional or unintentional, should be hopeful and encouraging.

Because in all my interactions with God, He is doing the same. He is eternally focusing on my positives. He is hopeful and encouraging. He comforts me. And He tells me what I’m doing right.

5. Create Special Traditions

I know the phrase “special traditions” may sound like something grandiose and overwhelming—like one more thing to do. But hear me out.

These can but definitely do not have to be over-the-top. They can be a special candlelit Valentine’s Day dinner for the whole family, but they can also be Saturday morning waffles, a “Daddy pick-up” from dance lessons, or Tuesday family movie nights.

I have a feeling if you asked my son what his favorite thing about Mom was, he would answer, “I love watching Bluey with Mom before nap time.” That has been our routine for who knows how long—we always find his favorite blanket, snuggle in his rocking chair, and watch one episode of his favorite show together before he takes a nap.

It’s not a big thing, but it helps us both calm down (him especially) and reconnect after what can sometimes be a chaotic morning of juggling work and play time and snacks and housework.

I truly believe that special traditions, daily patterns, routines, whatever you want to call them, can be a personalized way to strengthen the relationship between parents and their children.

And those routines can also serve as a great metaphor for how God works in our lives too. His patterns are all over the scriptures—“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” “If ye are righteous ye shall prosper in the land,” that kind of thing.

Even phrases from Primary songs, such as “Pray, He is there. Speak, He is listening,” can be easier to teach if we have a real-life example we can draw upon. If we establish those special traditions, we can look to our kids and say, “Our family has routines. Like on Saturdays, we make waffles. God has routines, too. And if we ask Him for help, He will give us answers.”

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