How do I love thee? 14 ways to show a child of any age

It’s a day for candy, chocolates, and pink heart-shaped cookies, all sweet ways to show you care on Valentine’s Day. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares the following tips for parents on how to show love for children – babies to teens and beyond — every single precious day.

1.     Use positive words. Avoid using sarcasm. Children often don’t understand it, and if they do, it creates a negative interaction.

2.     Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs. Banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary. Listen to your child when he/she wants to talk with you even if it’s an inconvenient time.

3.     Set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”

4.     When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign or other gesture of affection he favors and then talk with him about it when he’s feeling better.

5.     Practice non-violent discipline. Parents should institute both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to help prevent trouble during the teenage years.

6.     Be consistent. Allowing children of any age to constantly break important rules without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.

7.     Spend time alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys. Send a Valentine’s Day card to your older child or teen.

8.     Mark family game nights on your calendar so the entire family can be together. Put a different family member’s name under each date, and have that person choose which game will be played that evening.

9.     Consider adopting a pet. Especially for those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, animals can nurture physical activity, enhance positive attitudes, and offer constant companionship. A dog or cat can become a treasured confidant, giving a child a safe place to talk about feelings.

10.  Invite your child to cook or bake with you. Involve him/her in the entire process, from planning menus to shopping for ingredients to food preparation and serving. Eat together as a family as much as possible. Good food begets good conversation.

11.  Provide the resources your child needs. It is never too early to begin reading to your child. Avoid TV in the first two years, monitor and watch TV with your older children and use TV time as conversation time with your children. Limit computer and video games.

12.  Take your child to the doctor regularly for preventive health care visits. Keep him safe from accidents, provide a nutritious diet, and encourage exercise. Teach your child to respect and care for his/her body.

13.  Help your child foster positive relationships with friends, siblings and members of the community. Your child needs your steady support and encouragement to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.

14.  Say “I love you” to children of all ages. It’s never too late.