1. Acknowledge and celebrate their successes.
2. Tell them you love them for exactly who they are.
3. Plan a one-on-one date. If you have multiple children make sure each child has a one-on-one scheduled and do rotation.
4. Choose activities that you know the child loves to do.
5. Actively listen by looking at the child when he or she speaks to you. Put away your cell phone.
6. Ask for feedback, such as “what did you think of the concert?” or “would you like to go there again?”
7. Say “I’m sorry” when you are wrong.
8. Ask for the child’s help or opinion.
9. Always keep your word.
10. Make the child his or her favorite meal or dessert.
11. Allow the child to make choices for themselves, when appropriate.
12. Greet and say goodbye warmly when the child arrives and leaves.
13. Create a tradition together. Brand it – Tuesday Taco Night and Friday Movie Night are fun. My heart melted when I heard of a tradition a father had with his daughter . . . Every Spring, year after year, when the lilacs bloomed the daughter would dress up in a fancy outfit and her father would take pictures of her in front of the lilac bushes. She saved these photos over the years and they eventually became known as the “lilac pictures.” What a beautiful tradition and impactful memories they will share for a lifetime.
14. Be flexible and forget perfection. It’s not always about the end result; most of the time the journey is more influential.
15. Take an interest in what they care about. Learn friend’s names, keep up on hobbies, play dolls or trucks, swim in the pool, attend concerts, bake that cake together.
16. Take advantage of birthdays and other special occasions to celebrate. Most of what you need can be found at the dollar store and who doesn’t love balloons and streamers in their honor?
17. Compliment the child and talk proudly of them when around others.
18. Attend sporting events, plays, concerts, ceremonies the child is involved in and provide support for their effort and not necessarily their performance. There is nothing like having someone in the audience who shows up just for you!
19. Surprise the child with a small “just because I was thinking about you” gift.
20. Write a small, positive handwritten note unexpectedly. Think post-it’s in a lunch box, handmade bookmarks or notes on the bathroom mirror.
21. Highlight the child’s unique qualities when spending time together. “I am impressed by your love of mechanics, how do you know how to do that stuff?” “I have noticed that you work with children really well. That is a wonderful talent.” “You helped sell so much at the garage sale and you interacted with the people really well. Great job!”
22. Learn a new skill together. Remember to laugh and have fun during the process. The child will pick up on how you respond to failure so be sure to demonstrate a sense of humor, self-acceptance and patience.
23. Affection – a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss – demonstrate appropriate affection in a way that your child responds well to. Always take caution with physical affection when the child is not your own.
24. Tell them stories of what they used to do as babies. “When you were a baby you used to laugh at Daddy when he sneezed,” “You loved stroller rides in the park and people would come up to me and say ‘what a beautiful baby!’ and you would just smile”
25. Create a sense of family unity – identify traits, qualities and physical features the child holds that have come from Mom, Dad and other family members. “You have Mom’s eyes and lips while you have Dad’s toes!” “You love animals just like your Uncle Kevin. You two are a lot alike in that way.”
Michelle Bailey, LLMSW www.therapyinsight.net
If you have any questions about counseling in general or about becoming a client you can visit my website or contact me directly at 323-426-6173 or firstname.lastname@example.org.