Being a parent is perhaps one of the most important endeavors you will ever make, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. And while we often assume our kids should know that we love them- it’s important to make sure of it.

Saying I love you is a great way to express love, sure. But, several other ways express love on a real level. So many parents try to be “perfect parents,” but I am here to tell you, there is no such thing. Perfection does not exist. Rather than striving to be a perfect parent, it’s better to try to be the best parent you can be. And as parents, our main goal is to show our children they are safe and loved.

Here are 13 ways to show your child you love them.

1. Give them your full attention.

When your child asks you something, stop what you are doing, make eye contact with them and provide them with your full attention. Even if you are busy, it only takes a moment to give them your full attention, and if anything shows them you love them, this will.

2. Hug them.

Hug them, all the time. Hug them when they are upset, hug them when they are happy, and hug them as much as you can. Physical affection is a necessary part of their development- and a wonderful way to show love to your kids.

3. Cuddle them.

As long as they will let you cuddle them. As they get older, they will eventually lose interest in snuggling with you, so enjoy it while you can.

4. Smile at them.

When they come into a room with you, look up and smile at them. Without saying anything, this shows them that you care about them, and want them around you. And smiling can be contagious.

5. Praise them when it’s due.

When they do something great, let them know. Even if you assume they know you are proud of them, say it out loud. They need to hear it.

6. Say, “I love you.”

This one may sound obvious, but it’s important to say it out loud. And say it often.

7. Use the word “you” as much as you can.

When speaking to them, say “I am proud of you,” or “You did a great job,” and other sentences that include the word you. Why? Because it lets them know that you are focused on them and that you are talking about them, specifically. It makes them feel important and seen.

8. Spend quality time together.

Make time to spend with them, without distraction. Not just in passing, or during meals, but sitting down with them, playing with them, and making plans with them.

9. Do something special for them.

For no reason at all (other than the fact that you love them) do something special for them. Whether it’s taking them somewhere you know they want to go, buying them a simple gift or flowers, or taking them to eat at their favorite place when you go out of your way to do something nice just for them, it will show you care.

10. Include them in some family decisions.

Of course, you can’t include them in all of them, but when you can, include them and ask them for their input in family decisions. They are a part of the family after all, and it’s a great way to show them how much their input matters.

11. Give them experiences.

Rather than buying them things all of the time, give them experiences. Pay for them to join extracurricular activities like art classes, or music classes. Or take them to a symphony, or an art exhibit, or a concert. They won’t likely remember the trinkets you buy them, but they will never forget a good experience.

12. Push them- but not too hard.

Kids need to be encouraged because they are going to doubt themselves and be afraid of trying new things, especially when they feel like they could fail. It’s your job as a parent to push them and tell them you believe in them, to be their confidence when they are lacking it. Just don’t push them too hard.

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