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Baby Matters

Your children don’t need a super parent - they need *you* a parent who tries hard and loves them unconditionally.

January 11th, 2016

By Tabitha Shaw  

But what does loving unconditionally actually mean? Well, it means forgiving yourself fully and completely every single time you mess up and getting on with the job of parenting a thousand times a day. Let me repeat that, ‘it means forgiving yourself fully and completely every single time you mess up.’ This is where we learn how to show our children that we love them unconditionally - by learning to forgive and therefore love ourselves.

Why does unconditional love start with learning to forgive ourselves? Let me put this scenario to you: imagine someone who you love and respect unintentionally messes up in some way. How do you react? Would you forgive them? I know that I would because we are all human everyone makes mistakes. Now think of the last time you think you messed up? Did you immediately forgive yourself? Or did a little voice in your head start telling you that are stupid and you should know better?

When we get stuck in a cycle of messing up and beating ourselves up for it, our children suffer because they think they have done something to cause our behaviour.

Loving unconditionally means that our children need to feel and experience our love. While we all do love our children unconditionally, they may not necessarily feel it because sometimes we’re too busy attempting to be the perfect, super parent, instead of being fully and truly present in our children’s lives.

Well, I’m very busy I hear you say? Being present in our children’s lives does not mean that we don’t get on with the business of living. It simply means we make the most of the time we do spend with them. In less than 20 minutes a day you can show your child that you love them unconditionally and really connect with them. Did you know that there are 9 minutes in every day that have a huge impact on our children? They are the first 3 minutes after waking up, the first 3 minutes when coming home from school and the last 3 minutes before falling asleep. What a child (or any person!) experiences when they first wake up impacts that rest their day. A big smile, a big hug and letting our children know that we love them will set up for a super day. The first 3 minutes after coming home from school, dayhome or similar is also an excellent opportunity to bond. Letting them know that you are happy to see them and that you missed them will let them know that they are loved. Lastly, the last 3 minutes before sleeping are crucial too - a recap of the favourite parts of your child’s day will set them up for a good night’s sleep.

Remember that you are your child’s safe place. If they feel safe with you then they may cry when they see you because they feel safe letting you know that they are sad that you weren’t with them. This is a good thing because it means they missed you and they feel safe letting you know how they feel. At the same time, your child not crying when they see you doesn’t mean they didn’t miss you!

The rest of the 20 minutes? Well, providing an opportunity for one on one time with your child for 10 minutes where you give eye contact and let them lead the play or conversation completely (no phone, no TV, no distractions of any kind) is the other magical ingredient for ensuring that your child feels loved unconditionally. I don’t know about you, but when my significant other puts down his phone and talks to me with eye contact I feel heard and loved. It is the same for our children.

And remember to go easy on yourself and forgive yourself if you feel like you messed up - self forgiveness is at the heart of learning to love ourselves and therefore being able to love our children unconditionally. Getting better at something doesn’t mean being perfect to begin with. It is a journey and some days it may feel like two steps forward and one backward, but it is still progress in the right direction.

Tabitha Shaw runs the local chapter of BabyCalm ToddlerCalm in Edmonton.

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