The beauty of family is that they’re not allowed to run away as soon as they see your true personality or quirks. Each family member, even your little one, has the right to feel loved and accepted within that family unit. Family is for life -- everyone should learn how to support one another.
1 Set aside some time each day for each child. Even if your little one only gets 15 to 30 minutes of your undivided attention and time, if you make it a special time just for the two of you, it will be greatly appreciated. During this time, let him choose a game or activity for the two of you to do. Set a timer for the allotted time and just enjoy the time together. When the timer goes off, it’s time to clean up. When you give your little one your undivided attention on a regular basis, he will feel loved and accepted.
2 Praise your child and do it often. It feels good to hear positive things about himself and it will help with his self-esteem. Say things like “You give the best hugs, they make me feel so happy inside,” “Wow, you run really fast, like a super hero!” or “I really liked how you helped hold the door for me like that.” Be specific about what you like, don’t just say “That was nice.” Stay away from put-downs or negative comments -- this can make a child feel bad, even if you’re just playing around.
3 Give him affection. Hugs, kisses and pats on the back will make him feel special.
4 Offer choices, not demands. The preschool years are a time for gaining independence. It’s especially hard for a young one when he sees parents or older siblings getting choices and he doesn’t get a say. If you give your child two valid choices instead of just giving him a command, he will feel empowered. These can be things like “Do you want to pick up your toys now or after your snack?” or “Are you wearing the pirate pajamas or the space ship ones?” Both of these choices get him to do something you want but also give him some say in it.
5 Use empathy with your child. You don’t have to agree with him all the time, but you should be open-minded enough to validate and appreciate that he has his own point of view. Communicate and listen to him. You’re allowed to say “That hurt my feelings” or “It made me sad when…” This shows him how to talk about emotions without yelling, using negative words or calling names. Ask him questions and listen to his perspective. Even though he’s young, he’ll appreciate your communication. If there is a problem between two siblings, sit them both down and have them both talk about how they feel. Encourage them to use feeling words, instead of insulting or negative words. Talk about how to compromise or help avoid the situation in the future. Remember, mistakes are just lessons and a way to grow.
6 Plan a family dinner at least once a week. Each family member gets a turn to choose the meal and the other family members aren’t allowed to complain or say negative things about the choices or cooking. When it’s your preschooler’s turn, let him choose from a cookbook or online, help him write a shopping list, take him to pick the ingredients and cook the meal with him. During the meal, encourage each family member to say at least one nice thing about the meal, even if it's something along the lines of “I like how creative you were with the colors.”
7 Sit down with the family with a pile of crayons and paper. Each of you should draw a picture of each family member. When everyone is done, have each person explain his or her picture and say at least one nice thing about each person. This should make everyone feel good and accepted as an important part of the family. No negative comments are allowed or that person will be asked to leave the activity.
Items you will need
- Scholastic: Ages & Stages: What Makes Children Feel You Care
- The Communicator; Ways to Make People Feel Accepted; California State PTA
- Family TLC: 10 Ways to Make Your Children More Resilient
- Supportive Families, Healthy Children; Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University; Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW
- A Place of Our Own; How to Make Every Child Feel Valued
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images