A child can be neglected and hurt in more ways than one. Some adults who suffered as a child say the emotional pain left a bigger scar than the physical ever did. A child needs to know and feel that he or she is loved by their parents. If the child is neglected in this way he will develop a poor sense of self-worth.
I grew up in a broken home. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old, got back together and remarried six months later, then divorced again after another six months. Can you say “emotional roller coaster”? There was a lot of pain and suffering for all family members involved and words weren’t always used wisely. But what hurt the most were the words that were NEVER, or at least hardly ever, said. The following are things all children should hear, broken home or not.
1. I’m proud of you
As a child I never really knew if I made anyone proud. I did my best in school and in sports but I never knew if I made my family happy and proud of the work I did. I really only heard something if I screwed up. A child needs to know he makes his family proud because it encourages him to do better and helps his self-esteem. Fathers take notice; your words are often the most powerful.
2. You’re a good kid
It’s heartbreaking to think of a child who feels he is worthless and a burden. All children should be raised to know that they are their parents’ world and bring love and happiness to their lives. A child who is belittled and only hears the bad things will grow to feel that he is a bad person who doesn’t deserve happiness. Tell your kid that he or she is wonderful and will grow to do great things.
3. I love you
A child who doesn’t feel loved is in danger of growing into a hateful adult. If a child is loved conditionally he will grow to learn that people can’t be trusted because they will eventually hurt you. Don’t do this to your child. Not only does a child need to hear the words, but he needs to see the love with your actions. How does your child know you love him?
4. It’s OK
A child needs to know it’s OK and completely normal to make mistakes. Spilled milk is an accident and not something to yell about. A broken window can be fixed and not cause to hide in fear of the consequences. Tragedy in the family is ugly but not permanent. I wish I knew that there was light at the end of the tunnel when I was younger. I hated living in a constant state of anxiety. A child needs to feel safe at home, even when things aren’t so bright and cheery.
5. It’s not your fault
Have you ever been around someone who made you feel like everything that went wrong in their life was your fault? You don’t necessarily had to have to done anything wrong, but only be the closest whipping post. Children should never hear or feel the brunt of your frustrations or shortcomings. Don’t take your frustrations out on them. Show self-control and maintain their safe place.
6. What makes you happy?
As a parent I’ve come to really enjoy making my boys happy, sometimes to the point of spoiling them (cue my wife’s eyes rolling). It brings joy to my wife and me when we do things our kids like to do. It can be as simple as letting the kids pick what we do on the weekend, where we go out to eat one night, and what movie we watch. Kids also want to be a part of some of the major family decisions and to know their thoughts are important. I never had a say in the little things or the big things, and no one ever asked me what made me happy on a day to day basis. It felt like no one cared to know what made me “tick”. You should know your kids better than anyone else, and it’s never too late if you don’t. Talk to your children and just be there with them. Play with them, talk to them, and ask for their opinions on things. You’d be surprised at some of the insight a child has.
7. God loves you
Whenever God was mentioned it was usually when describing a consequence of one’s actions. I can’t recall a time when God was talked about for His love and mercy. All I really remember was “You’ll go to hell if you keep lying”, or “God will get you with a lightning bolt if you do that again”. I always knew God loved me and was present in the good times as well, but I always felt like I was alone in thinking that. Your child should understand that God wants all His children to be happy and that even in the darkest of times He is always there to offer his comfort and protection.
8. Time for mass
Church attendance wasn’t a big thing growing up and Sundays were usually chore days. I always wished we had gone to Mass weekly and formed friendships with the people at our parish. It’s important for the formation of a child’s faith that he sees his parents’ love for the Mass and introduce him to the sacraments.
9. All I want is for you to love God
Children want nothing more than to please their parents and make them proud. They will do everything they can to seek the approval of mom or dad, and when they don’t they begin to wonder what they’re doing wrong. As a parent your greatest responsibility is to lead your children to God and instill in them love for Him. Tell your children that you want nothing more than for them to be faithful servants of the Lord. My boys have asked me what they should be when they grow up so that I’ll be happy. Each time I tell them that I only want them to grow to love God above all things and to love the Church. All else is just icing on the cake. Don’t make your kids work for your approval.
Now, I know people whose parents were never good at saying the above things but they always knew how they felt. Maybe you’re one of these parents. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Just ask for God’s guidance and be humble. You’ll make mistakes but God will help you along. God bless you all.