Tag Archives: Parent-child relationships

Quality Time with Your Children: A Foundational Love Language By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

Quality Time is undoubtedly the most important Love Language for children. Even if a child’s primary Love Language is not Quality Time, it is still extremely important, as it makes a child feel special, important and loved.

One form of Quality Time is Quality Activities, which are those during which you give your child undivided attention. Quality Activities might include going to a movie together, reading bedtime stories, playing a ball game, teaching a child to cook or showing a child how to do something. It is not the activities themselves that are important, it is your full attention that communicates love to your children.

Some parents feel very sad that their teenage children no longer want to spend time with them as they used to. Yet, this is a natural part of adolescence. When teenagers engage in other activities away from you, it gives them the opportunity to assert for their independence and to learn more about themselves in order to develop their self-identity.

Although spending time away from you is a natural and healthy part of growing up, it is also important for your children to maintain good connections with you. Make it very pleasant for your children to be around you. When they are with you, they get to receive your undivided attention, do activities that they really enjoy, and hear words of love, praise and encouragement. Soon they would be excited to spend time with you!

Those of you who have more than one child, make sure to spend Quality Time with each child, even if only for a short time. This can be very challenging for many of you, as lack of time is a common struggle for many parents. Yet, the Quality Time you spend with each child starting when they are young may prevent years of heartache to come.

Here are a few tips that may help you:

Let the activity be about the child, and not about the activity itself. It is the togetherness in spirit that is important. Many people nowadays are often busy texting and checking emails or Facebook while they are around their children. One child was deeply disappointed because during her piano recital, her mom stepped out of the room to talk on the phone. This child had practiced her piano piece for weeks before and really wanted her mom to see her performance.

Involve your children in the planning process. If you plan a trip out of town, ask your children, “What do you want to do on the trip?” Or if your son doesn’t want to join you on the trip, ask him “ “What would make the trip interesting to you?”

Take note of your child’s interests and plan activities accordingly. My teenage sister loves food. So every now and then, I take her out to eat so we have a chance to spend lots of Quality Time together. While doing those activities, talk to your child to get to know him. Ask him, “What do you think of…?” “How do you feel about…?”

Here is an example of how my husband learned about Quality Time with his son. This is his story in his own words:

“When my son, Nick, was in grade two, he had a very hard time reading. I read to him at home every night. But when I tried to help teach him to read it was not working out like I hoped. I became very frustrated that Nick could not do it the way I wanted him to. I would read, point and get loud and try to bully him into doing it my way….doing it right! All this did was isolate him and make him feel terrible. He cried, lashed out at me, and I made our “Quality Time” some of the worst times of his childhood.

As with many other kids, our family doctor wanted to put him on Ritalin. But I wanted to be sure. After several weeks of testing, it was determined that he was quite dyslexic and needed special help to read. We were blessed to find a tutor who specialized in Nick’s type of learning disability. Soon, he began to blossom as his confidence grew. Our relationship also improved greatly, as he saw I was on his side now. I was giving him the type of Quality Time he needed and not forcing my way on him. Nick struggled to finish high school. However, he knew that whenever he grew frustrated and sought advice, I would focus first on his needs and well being. We had some tough conversations and a few more tears. But the lessons I learned in grade two paid off in ways that I am still grateful for today.”

Another form of Quality Time is Presence. Those times when you attend your child’s soccer games, recitals, birthday parties, high school graduation ceremony or the like, are all memorable for your children. Many of us are bombarded with professional and personal demands, and it is easy to miss these activities. Yet, not making time for these important moments in your children’s lives can be very disappointing to many of them and affect them years to come. One man sadly recalled, “I didn’t feel loved by my dad because he was always too busy to come to any of my football games.”

The third form of Quality Time is Quality Conversations. These are some ways to help you talk to your children more effectively:

Have a family meal together at least once a week, if not every day, during which TV, phones or laptops are off. All family members are encouraged to share three things that happened to them, and how they felt about those things.

Teach your children about etiquette, such as saying Thank You and Please and treating everyone as you want to be treated. Equally important, model these behaviours, as your children see you every day.

For very young children, be patient in answering their endless “Why” questions. It can be frustrating to be bombarded with these inquiries. Some parents might be tempted to yell at their children, “Stop asking so many questions! Go play and let daddy finish this!”

Rather than asking closed questions like “Do you like your classes this year?”, ask open questions like “How do you like your new classes this year?”. Closed questions do not encourage conversations with children because you can only ask so many of them. Open questions encourages your children, especially teenagers, to think for themselves as adults. It also fosters their intellectual growth and stimulates their brain development.

Listen, listen and listen some more. As adults, we are often quick to give advice, offer solutions and tell kids our perspective on things. However if you listen first, then your children will be receptive to your ideas and perspectives more heartily. Questions that you can ask your children to encourage their problem-solving skills: “What do you want to do about this?” “What will happen if you do that?” “What are some other ways to approach this situation?”

When your adolescents challenge your rules and question your beliefs, you may perceive them as being argumentative and react to their questions defensively. However, view these times as opportunities to teach them about assertiveness. Ask them, “What is your opinion on that?” Children who accept everything their parents say without any questions may later on be easily influenced by peer pressure or by controlling partners/spouses. It is not criticizing, yelling, shaming, arguing, instilling fear, control or aggression that can change people’s behaviours and attitudes permanently. Rather, It is love, compassion, acceptance, appreciation, awareness and gentle guidance that have the capacity to transform people’s attitudes and behaviours in profound and lasting ways.

It is very important for parents to share their opinions with their children and to offer guidance, however, the manner in which you do so can make a huge difference. In sharing your perspective, you could say, “I see why you think that way. However, I believe that…”

Use your non-authoritarian, calm, gentle or positive tone of voice to talk to your children. Doing so can activate the emotional engagement parts in their brains and can make it much easier for them to listen to your words. When you use a harsh tone of voice, cutting remarks or physical force, you inadvertently activate the fight-flight-freeze response in your children’s central nervous system.

Use stories and examples to offer guidance, especially your own stories and struggles. Hearing your stories makes it real for your children and easier for them to relate to you. It also reminds them that you are human too. You don’t have to share details that you are not comfortable with.

Living in the refugee camp during my teenage years, we frequently witnessed many men mistreating women — beating, sexualizing and verbally degrading them. My mom would talk to us about these things, helping us understand that those behaviours were absolutely unacceptable and must not be the norm in our lives. She let us know that we as women deserve respect from everyone, including men, and should never settle for less. Later on in my love life, I’ve learned to expect respectful treatment and accept nothing less from any man, including my husband.

In summary, Quality Time is a foundational Love Language to express love to your children and to fill their emotional love tank. Make time to do meaningful activities with your children, be present during important moments in their lives and engage in open dialogues with them. Your children will definitely feel very special, important and loved.

When your children are young, you have much control over how much time you spend with them. Make the best of those times! When your children grow older, they control how much time they want to spend with you. Make the best of those times too! We get what we give in life. The Quality Time you spend with your children, and the love you communicate that they can feel during those bonding moments can leave an imprint of love in your children’s hearts forever!

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Filling Your Children’s Emotional Love Tank by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there is an emotional love tank inside everyone of us, including children. When our Emotional love tank is full, that means we feel loved by significant people in our lives. Likewise, when children’s emotional love tank is full…

 

• They feel connected to important people in their lives.

• They feel accepted for who they are.

• They feel nurtured and cared for by their significant others.

• They feel happy, contented, confident, free, relaxed, calm, secure and safe.

• They are more willing to try out new experiences.

• They are more engaged in social interactions.

• They are more resilient when facing very difficult times.

• They are confident in making decisions.

• They work towards their goals and are not afraid to make mistakes or fail.

• They follow their passions and fulfill their dreams.

• The possibilities are endless!

 

What happens when children’s emotional love tank is empty or becoming empty?

 

When children’s emotional love tank is empty or on its way to being empty, we may see some or most of the following signs in their lives:

 

• They kick, scream or throw temper tantrums.

• They tune their parents out and don’t listen to them.

• They withdraw or are very reluctant to set goals or make decisions.

• They avoid spending time with their parents.

• They fight with their siblings and are very jealous of them.

• They lie, steal or hide things from their parents.

• They are more affected by peer pressure and may even join gangs.

• They use substances like alcohol and drugs.

• They engage in sexual promiscuity or become pregnant early.

• They run away from home.

• They drop out of school.

 

Again, the possibilities are endless. Children whose emotional love tank is empty may seek love in all the wrong places.

 

Acknowledging these possibilities in children may bring about much fear, panic and anxiety within you as parents. Yet, fears and panic don’t help you to become effective in your connections with your children. Rather, they take up space in your parenting, act as road blocks in your relationships with your children and create distance between you and them. Fears and panic cloud your judgment and paralyze your children’s motivation. They prevent you from seeing with clarity a full picture of your children – their uniqueness, special characteristics, strengths, talents, potentials and dreams. More importantly, fears and panic can be in the way of mutual love between you and your children.

 

Here, I plead to your heart, fear no more! Don’t let your parenting and your relationship with your children be driven by fears. Rather, let your parenting and your relationship be propelled and flourished by love!

 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (Corinthians 13:13)

 

Faith: Have faith in your children. Trust that behind all those annoying, frustrating or even nasty behaviours, there is a very special child who yearns to feel loved. Underneath all those angry, moody, unpredictable and even violent personas, there is a vulnerable child who needs to be loved and to feel loved. Trust that your children can make their own decisions, even if they have to make mistakes in their choices. Trust that with your love and guidance, they have the capacity to find their own paths somehow, albeit challenging and seemingly impossible at times.

 

Hope: Your faith in your children represents hope for them. Where there is hope, there is life. When your children are feeling hopeless about their circumstances, your faith in your children helps to instill hope in them. Hope can help children seek open doors and find new opportunities. Hope can help your children realize that setbacks are mere temporary defeats and not permanent failures.

 

Love: Your love for your children can transform your relationships with them and your perceptions of their challenging behaviours. When your children can feel your love, they can effectively cope with many challenges in life and live fuller and more authentic lives.

 

Although almost all parents love their children dearly, few children do feel very loved. Many children’s emotional love tanks become empty on a regular basis because they don’t understand the love languages communicated by their parents.

 

In my previous post, I wrote about two Love Languages out of the Five Love Languages as proposed by Dr. Gary Chapman. I hope you don’t look at these posts on Five Love Languages as another “how-to manual” about how to love. Rather, I invite you to look at these love languages as a road map to a very important lifetime journey – a journey of love. As a road map, these five love languages can help you navigate the ever challenging journey of love with your children. This road map does not intend to give you the specifics to solve all problems in parent-child relationships, as human relationships are very complex. Rather, this road map gives you an idea of how to build a foundation of love with your children. What you make of it is up to you – your faith, your hope, your love and how frequently you practice these love languages.

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The Five Love Languages: Enhancing Your Relationships with Your Children by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

Do you want to enhance your connections with your children?

As parents, do you want to be more effective in communicating with your children?

If so, then read on…

Do you find that even though you really care about and love your  children, they  don’t seem to understand your love? Whatever you say, your words are being tuned out or ignored. Your  children talk back at you, scream or yell at you, or even run to their room and slam the door.

If these are some of the scenarios that describe the relationship with your  children, then learning to speak and understand five love languages specific to children can be a very powerful tool for you. Have you ever wondered what might be your  child’s primary love language? In other words, what is the most important love language that your  child really understands?

How does it help us to learn about love languages? Let me share with you a personal experience. When I first came to Canada as a teenager, I spoke and understood very limited English. I remember often I felt very confused, frustrated and stupid. Some people even thought I was cognitively challenged because a lot of the time I didn’t seem to have a clue what people were saying to me. Many of them probably perceived me as passive, incompetent and not very intelligent. It may have been very difficult for them to imagine that I would become a therapist and a public speaker one day.

So if you learn to speak and understand the love languages that children do, you have much stronger connections with them. You would be very effective and would exert very positive influence in their lives.

In my work as a therapist and based on my personal experiences, what I have observed over the years is this: many parents truly love their children. However, few children do feel loved by their parents. Many children unfortunately don’t feel loved by their parents. They don’t feel important to their parents.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five primary love languages. Furthermore, these five love languages need to be expressed differently to children. The five love languages are:

1. Words of affirmation

2. Gifts

3. Act of service

4. Quality time

5. Physical touch

1. Words of affirmation. This includes telling your children that you love them and sharing with them how much you care for them. In some families, being verbally affectionate may not be the norm. Remember, whenever you learn to speak a new language, it’s always awkward and difficult initially. And the more you practice it, the better you get at it.

Don’t assume that your children already know that you love them, and think you don’t need to tell them on a regular basis. Even if they do know, verbally expressing your love serves as a constant reminder of how much you love them and care about them. Frequent reassurance gives them a sense of security. Furthermore, your love also helps them get through challenging times in their lives, such as when their friends don’t accept them, or when their teachers criticize their work, or when others criticize their appearance.

Words of affirmation can also be in the form of using encouraging words to acknowledge children’s hard work or accomplishments. This doesn’t mean praising everything that they do. Rather, really take note of the things that they do well, or have put a lot of effort into. Examples of affirmations might include:

“I believe in you.”

“I am very proud of your…” or “I am very proud that you…”

“I know you can do it!”

“I really appreciate…

“Thank you for cleaning your room.” or “Thank you for looking after your sister.”

“I notice how hard you have been practicing the piano.”

“The eggs you fried today were awesome!”

“I notice you’ve really tried hard to do well in your soccer practices.”

“I notice you have been working very hard to improve your grades this year.”

Whatever you say, mean it.

If you find it difficult coming up with something positive to say, ask yourself, “what are some of the good things I appreciate about this child?” Sometimes children frustrate us so much that it’s hard to come up with something positive to say. However, doesn’t matter how frustrating their behaviours have been, we can always find some good points about children, even if those points seem very minor and far between.

Words of encouragement and love are very important. Such words can draw out the goodness in a person. Equally important, avoid criticisms and condemnation, as it is so easy to do so. As loving and encouraging words can draw out the best in people, criticisms and condemnation can draw out the worst in them. Negativity can also stop people from making positive changes.

In some cultures, the common belief is that complimenting children too much will cause them to become arrogant or slack off and consequently not put in their best effort. However, all of us, especially children and teenagers, thrive with words of love, encouragement and appreciation.

When you can truly appreciate children for who they are and what they do, as well as expressing your appreciation, then you will have a very positive and strong influence on your children’s lives. They will be much more receptive to your words of guidance and constructive feedback.

2. Gifts. Many parents’ primary love language is giving gifts to their children. I have often observed that this is especially common among immigrants, as it is the love language that these parents can understand easily. These parents frequently have to work hard to make ends meet and so they believe they don’t have time to spend with their children. These parents may have also been raised in families where hearing their parents telling them that they love them and are proud of them wasn’t the norm. So these parents don’t express their love and pride to their children. They assume their children know they love them by how hard they work and how many things they buy for them.

Unfortunately, receiving lots of gifts from parents doesn’t always make children feel loved and important. Even those children who seem very excited to get expensive gifts or exciting toys, such excitement and joy often don’t last more than a few days or a few weeks. Remember, love in the forms of materials last as long as the lifetime of those objects. However, love in the forms of words and quality time can stay with and influence people for a lifetime, and even across generations.

This doesn’t mean that gifts are not important at all! Pay attention to your children and find out what kind of gift is really meaningful to them? Let them earn those gifts themselves. In other words, let your gift giving be purposeful and meaningful. Don’t just give your children what you think they need or what they think they need. Let them show you in their words and actions why those particular gifts are meaningful or important to them. Let me share with you an example…

Last year, my sixteen-year-old sister told me excitedly that she really wanted to go on a trip to Europe that was organized by her school. However she didn’t believe she would be able to afford the trip, as it would cost around $4000 plus some spending money. I asked her why she wanted to go on this trip. Although all of us in our family believed that such a trip would be a wonderful learning experience for my sister, I still wanted to know how meaningful this trip would be to her and that it was her own idea and not anyone else’s. I then said to my sister: “Do the best you can to come up with the money, such as saving the money you earn from your work, getting support from our parents and our oldest sister, and then I will help you with the rest. I wanted my sister to learn to do things herself and to set goals, while I would be there to support her. I believe that when children are being handed things too easily or too readily, they don’t appreciate the importance of hard work and being able to make things happen themselves. My parents were tempted to pay for all the costs. However I encouraged them to let my sister work it out herself.

Within the next several months, my sister was able to get some financial support from our oldest sister and from our parents. She was also able to save about $800 from her job as a server. In the end, she needed an additional $2500. I offered to give her $1500 and loan her $1000, which she will have to pay back. My sister was very grateful. I knew she worked very hard for the trip and I told her that I was very proud of her.

I had never seen my sister so motivated about anything as she was about this trip. She went on the trip and she loved it. I think a big part of her enjoying the trip was that she had worked hard for it. While she was away on her trip, she texted me and our family almost every day to tell us she loves us. She got me a very cute purse in Italy for my birthday gift.

Now, she has been saving up money to pay me $1000. I explained to her that although I want to give her the money, it is also important that she learns to save and be responsible by saving up to pay me.

Even though it is tempting to give children things as soon as they ask for them or beg to have them, let them earn these gifts themselves by giving them the opportunity to set goals and earn these things with their hard work. In doing so, you are training your children to be patient, purposeful, conscientious and responsible. Nowadays with the technology, it is very easy to want instant gratification and instant convenience. Yet those things don’t teach your children the values of hard work, perseverance, responsibility, discipline, goal setting and patience.

In summary, tell your  children you love them and care about them on a regular basis. Acknowledge their strengths. Tell them you are proud of their accomplishments, even the seemingly minor ones. Lastly, let your children earn their gifts by supporting them through reassurance and love, helping them to set goals and encouraging them to make things happen themselves. By taking a step back and letting your children work towards their goals themselves, you have given your children a very special gift – a gift of faith and trust that they can do anything themselves if they set their mind to!

In the next post, I will write about the remaining three love languages.

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