To build your children’s Stress Safety Net (SSN) the second [see the first here] and most important component is your unconditional love: to love them without condition. It’s the thread that holds everything together.
Unconditional love doesn’t require you to always approve of their behavior; you love them in spite of it. You’re there for them, yet won’t necessarily rescue them from foolish behavior. You can apply consequences to their misbehavior, even punish them, and still love them.
Todd stood by his teenage son who repeatedly got into trouble with the law. Each time he received a call from the police, he’d go through the process without rescuing him and assuring him of his love while his son faced the consequences. Eventually, his son got involved in sports and slowly straightened himself out. He even thanked Todd for making him take responsibility for his own behavior while still supporting him.
Unconditional love requires connecting with your kids regularly, lovingly, playfully, and much more often than not, positively. This allows you to survive the normal, uncomfortable connections.
Keep in mind, if your kids don’t connect with you positively, they’ll connect with you negatively; chronic fighting and clinging are examples.
A young single mother of two small children felt drained most of the time working a full-time job and managing the home front all alone. When home she raced around trying to get everything done. Her kids clung to her making it even more difficult. Someone advised her to spend an uninterrupted weekend hour with both of her kids doing fun things together. Much to her amazement, after a couple of weeks, her kids quit clinging to her the rest of the week. They’d been starved for her full attention. Once they received it they felt more secure and loved.
With all kids these moments are to create a trusting relationship. With older kids they’re also to know what’s going on in their lives. Peer pressure can get them into situations they’re unable to handle well. You must keep your eyes open to what your kids, their friends, and other kids in their age group are doing.
Whatever your child’s age, these connections don’t have to be time consuming; most take just minutes. Like reading your child a story after school, watching TV together, sitting together while you both do your “homework,” or daily exchanging hugs and kisses in the car.
All kids, regardless of their ages and resistance, need these special moments. Nurture them.
Unconditional love also requires being nonjudgmental. Judgments feel like you’re putting a condition on your love. As parents you want to help your children do well admonishing, “Don’t be a slob chewing with your mouth open.” “You’re too lazy about school work.”
Instead of labeling your child lazy or a slob, describe the behavior you want to change. “Chew with your mouth closed, please,” or “Set aside two hours to do homework when you get home.” Your kids respond better when you deliver it this way.
Next week we’ll cover teaching your children your positive values.
–Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.