More often than not, family life feels very complicated. We often wonder if we are doing the right things to make our family members feel loved and supported, and whether or not we are spending our time in the right ways. As parents in particular, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create a beautiful home-life for our children. But this alone can make us forget the most basic ways of expressing unconditional love.
In my experience, the simple, quiet acts of love have had the strongest impact on my children. In fact, these can be communicated without a single word. None of them require scheduling, and all of them are free.
Here are three totally silent gestures that communicate love to your children powerfully, like nothing else in the world can.
1. Look into their eyes.
It's harder than it seems at first glance. This became a challenge of mine when I began my business with five children under 11 years old. I noticed I started speaking to my children while I was looking at my phone, or writing "a quick email." But luckily, I soon realized I was missing that sweet and very deeply-felt feeling of presence that I had cultivated over many years of motherhood.
Now, when my children begin speaking, I put down what I'm doing and look directly into their eyes. This not only benefits them by validating their presence, their value to me, and so on, but it also reminds me of what is most beautiful about my own life. It slows me down and puts all the tasks I have in mind into perspective. I'm always surprised by how much joy I feel just from watching their faces.
If I cannot stop what I'm doing midstream, I simply say, "I need a moment to finish this, because I want to look at you while you're talking." As a result, I've found my children have become more patient and present. Even my littlest children respond to this with patience, knowing they have my full attention to look forward to.
There is something so validating and affirming about eye contact. In a world where our children see adults perpetually on phones, and in front of computers and TVs, we can be the example of one who looks straight into their eyes. They will carry this into their relationships with everyone they meet.
2. Never let go first.
When you hug your children, make sure the hug ends when they let go (not when you let go). I began this special way of hugging my children — of never letting go first — a few years ago. Believe it or not, this choice has become one of my most cherished acts of love, because it nourishes us both.
It occurred to me one day, years ago, that I had been treating my kids' hugs just like many other moments in my day: rushed and distracted, with one foot already into the "next thing." I was missing out on precious, unsolicited gestures of love.
But now, when my children hug me, I let them stay in my arms for as long as they want. Since they trust that I won't pull away, I find that they sink into the hug more deeply. Sometimes, they only need a quick moment of affection. Other times, they need a long, tight embrace. What I find so beautiful about this act of not letting go first, is that it allows me to receive love from my children in a way I (unknowingly) didn't allow myself to do before. It is among the most profound gifts we can give our children: to really let them express their love.
3. Smile when they walk in the room.
It sounds so simple. But ask this question and it may seem different: how many times do we suddenly realize we aren't alone in a room? We look up and realize one of our children walked in without our even noticing. Or sometimes when we do see them enter the room, we simply glance up before immediately checking our phones again, or returning to whatever it is we were doing beforehand. Or worse, we feel interrupted, and they can sense it.
One special way that I try to show love to my children is by smiling when they walk into the room. I want them to remember my face lighting up upon their entrance. As parents, we have many, many opportunities for correction and redirection. Likewise, we have countless ways to affirm our children without saying a word.
Acknowledging their presence with a smile puts them at ease and uplifts them. It sends the quiet message, "You are loved, and the sight of you makes me filled with immediate joy." More than anything we can bestow upon our children, our gaze communicates everything to them about their worth.
What are some ways you love your children, without saying a word?