Unconditional, consistent love! The importance of expressing your positive feelings for your child all the time, not just when they are sick or good!
Derek’s parents have a history of mostly being preoccupied with their careers. They rarely pick him up early (before 6pm) and he is often the last one at daycare. We rarely observe verbal or physical “loving” expressions and in fact none of us can recall seeing him hugged or kissed by either parent. He often is lacking basic necessities such as clothing that fits correctly, attendance at special events, or even play dates at his home.
The only exceptions to the above occur when he is sick or we had to report that his is breaking day care rules. He seems pleased to share conflicts that he has had with his friends.
Over time, we noticed that he is exaggerating (or may be faking) health problems.
Several months ago he was diagnosed with a chronic respiratory condition that understandably has alarmed his parents. He is now experiencing ongoing attention because of that fact, his whole behavior has changed. He seems to exaggerate his condition when they appear and has become demanding of them.
He has quickly learned that he has finally found something that demands their attention. Even his physical demeanor has changes. He has taken responsibility for his own survival and mostly was assertive and independent. Now he stops playing, takes on a stooped body shape and speaks in a whining tone when they appear.
We are concerned with the changes in him, and in fact compare his behavior to that of other children we have had over the years who were in similar situations.
These visible symptoms of the need for any child to feel loved and attended to is truly the basis of emotional expression.
We shared our observations with the parents and are reinforcing the coaching we originally provided. It took them a while to realize we were not exaggerating.
The most fulfilling and beneficial relationship is based on the following.
1. Let your child know that you love them unconditionally, no matter what.
2. Separate their actions from who they are. You may not like what they say or do, but who love who they are.
3. Treat an illness for what it is: a condition to care for and about, but not the only relationship you have with your child.
4. Provide whatever time and care they need to be healthy, but do not allow that to dominate your relationship and be the only topic of conversation you have.
5. Give them quality time every day! They should have at least 2.5 to 3 hours each day between daycare and bedtime, and be totally present with them.
6. Invest in an inflatable bed for you if you think their condition is serious and they should not be left alone.
It is concerning and amazing to us how many times we have seen this type of relationship dominate. Children often feel good about being sick, especially if they get to sleep with their parents when that occurs.
Your child’s self confidence and emotional health are keys to their future. Support it, protect it, and nurture it!
Read more by me on my parenting blog