It is no secret that children love new toys. They love Christmas and birthdays because of the multitude of gifts they receive. However, the most important gift any child could receive is the continual presence of his parents in his life. As a parent, giving your time, energy and love to your child is one of the most important things you can do.
As a young teenager, I never understood how blessed I was to have such involved and loving parents. All I wanted were the latest clothes and gadgets, but I had an experience that still haunts me to this day.
I was in middle school and hit that awkward phase with the new glasses and braces to prove it. I thought that if I could get new clothes, the latest technology, cool backpack, whatever it might be, that it would help me feel better about myself. I pitched one of those teenage girl tantrums to my parents, crying and being emotional. I remember running to my room and throwing myself on my bed, crying and wishing my parents would just comply with my wishes.
I’ll never forget what happened. My dad came into my room, sat on my bed and explained that money won’t make a difference. Even if he could afford to buy me a new wardrobe, it wouldn’t be enough. I was still mad and upset and thought he was wrong. Come to find out, I was the one that was wrong.
It didn’t matter whether I had the newest and most expensive gadgets or clothes. I had parents who took an active role in my life. My Dad, even though he worked long, full days, was diligent and frequently took me and my sisters on Daddy-Daughter dates. My mom was always present at our extracurricular events, would sit next to us as we practiced the piano and would always help us with our homework. I grew up knowing that my parents loved me, cared about me and wanted what was best for me. They didn’t have to buy me expensive toys to win my love they did it through their actions.
There are individuals who experience the best of the best while growing up. They receive all the latest toys, the new cars, the latest gadgets, yet their parents are rarely home. Their parents don’t bother trying to establish a close relationship. Instead, they try to buy their child’s love. As their children grow up, they don’t have a close-knit relationship. In fact, they rarely speak. Unfortunately, these children learn to grow up without the help of their parents, and now they don’t need their family unless it is for financial means.
The relationship between parents and children is established at a very young age. Children learn to rely on their parents for everything from changing their diapers to feeding them each meal. Even though parents may work full-time away from the home, they can still be present in their child’s life. They can still do all they can to develop a strong relationship with their child based on love and understanding. Here are a few reasons why presence is more important in your child’s life than the latest and greatest present.
Children need your example
A child’s first school is the home. This is the place where children learn basic skills such as how to speak, walk, use the toilet, hold a fork, etc. Children learn these skills from watching others. Parents set an example to children. If a child sees a parent performing a certain task, the child feels it is also OK to do it. When you are present in your child’s life, you help shape your child into the person you know he can become. Children look up to you their entire lives and your actions speak much louder than any amount of money. Show your children, by your example and your actions, that you want what is best for them.
Children need your physical touch
When children fall and hurt themselves, or they are sick, there is nothing like a kiss from their mom or a snuggle from their dad. Physical touch is a powerful thing. Consider the importance of skin-to-skin contact with newborns right after birth. The physical touch of the mother right after birth provides many physical and mental benefits for the child. A few benefits of skin-to-skin contact include an increase in the baby’s brain development, breastfeeding encouragement and protection against feelings of separation.
Physical touch isn’t just something that affects newborns. It has a lasting effect, even as adults. Take the time to snuggle your children, let them sit on your lap while you read them stories and give them hugs before bed each night, etc.
Involvement helps build child’s self-esteem
When you are involved in your child’s life, you help him gain confidence and build up his self-esteem. When parents make it a priority to attend a child’s choir concert or basketball game or even make sure her homework is complete, it brings feelings of security and love to a child. This is important to a child’s mental health. When these feelings do not exist, the child is more likely to be insecure and have feelings of low self-worth.
A strong relationship builds a child’s communication skills
When parents are present in a child’s life, they spend more time talking to the child. Whereas, when a child is just given a gift, they are usually by themselves for an extended period of time. Communication with parents is essential for establishing critical skills. Vocabulary, grammar and even basic socializing skills can all be learned through constant communication between a child and a parent.
At first, presents may seem like a great way to win your child’s love but they will never take the place of being present. Children grow up too quickly. Don’t let their childhood slip by without being involved and letting your actions show your child how much your care.
Courtnie Erickson is a Utah State University graduate and a technology guru.