Christmas presents of love
DR MATT SANDERS
"Christmas is for kids" it is often said. I guess that
idea comes from the enjoyment most parents feel watching the huge
smiles and delighted squeals of young children as they open their
presents on Christmas morning. It touches our hearts and stirs the
memories of our own childhood.
Giving our children presents is ultimately about love and caring.
The enormous responsibilities of parenthood, which can sometimes
almost overwhelm us in times of stress, can bring many rewards.
Nurtured with love within the stable and protective fold of a
caring family (no matter what the particular makeup of the family)
children grow as individuals and bring to that family a new and
So while many parents cannot afford to buy their children the very
latest "must have" Christmas toy, they can give their children
presents of love that will encourage a positive relationship
between child and parent. Developing a positive relationship with
your child can help ease many of the stresses of parenting and in
the process reduce the potential for misbehaviour.
So how exactly do you come by these particular 'presents'?
Developing a caring family relationship takes many forms, but most
often begins with simple everyday actions. Spending frequent small
amounts of time with your child, even if it is only as little as 1
or 2 minutes can be more beneficial than less frequent longer
So-called 'quality time' with children is more likely to occur
naturally rather than be planned for. Next time your child comes up
to you to tell you something, ask a question, or involve you in
their activity, if you are not occupied with something important
stop and make yourself available. The efforts you take to be
involved with your child, however brief, are special to them.
The more we respond to these requests when children are pleasant
and civil, the fewer hassles we have with children demanding
attention. Children also need to learn to receive attention and
have it taken away. The key is to keep your attention brief and
Spending time with your child acknowledges their individuality and
self-worth and allows opportunities for learning. And when you take
time to talk with your child this not only helps them learn the art
of conversation and the usefulness of words to help express
themselves, it also gives you the chance to share your own ideas
and information. It shows that you are interested in what your
child has to say.
Remember too, there are many opportunities to give your children
attention and encourage behaviour you like without taking up much
time. A smile, a wink, a pat on the back or simply just watching as
your child plays, are all forms of attention that children enjoy.
Noticing your child behaving well and praising them for it
increases the chance of that good behaviour occurring again.
Another way of showing you care is to give your child plenty of
physical affection. Holding, touching, cuddling, tickling and
hugging, help children grow up feeling loved and cared for as well
encouraging them to be comfortable with giving and receiving
affection. Affection in the first few years of a child's life helps
them form secure bonds with their parents, bonds much more powerful
than that which biology provides.
Of course, those Christmas toys aren't without their own benefits.
Providing children with interesting and engaging activities
encourages independent play - a skill essential for a healthy
upbringing. The toys don't have to be expensive, just fun for your
child to play with.
Christmas is a time for kids, as well as parents, and families. I
wish you all a Merry Christmas and the best of luck with raising
the next generation - it's a tough job sometimes, but well worth
the effort. See you next year.
Dr Matt Sanders, is a clinical psychologist at the University
of Queensland and founder of the Triple P Positive Parenting