You may think your kids are already getting enough presents this year, but I promise there’s room for more. These gifts may not fit in a stocking, or even under a tree, but they’ll put as much sparkle in your children’s eyes as any gift-wrapped toy or gadget will.
1) Your Undivided Attention
In the parenting age of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets that keep us connected, it’s very easy to give our kids only a fraction of our attention. I’m incredibly guilty of this—in fact, it’s probably my biggest parenting challenge (especially since I work at home on the computer). But kids crave and deeply appreciate having our full attention. They don’t have our perspective of needing to work, or of being engrossed in an interesting article, or of chatting with an old friend online—those things may truly be important to us, but all our kids see is us looking at a screen. They live in the moment, and we need to be fully present with them whenever we can. It’s so easy to forget, to let distractions pull us away from our highest priority. Imagine how our kids feel when we close the computer or set down the phone and fully give them our eyes and ears. That small action speaks volumes to them.
2) A Face Full of Love
I once watched a child run up to his mother to ask a question. She turned toward him, gently cradled his face in her hands, and smiled at him while she listened. It was one of the most tender and loving moments I’ve ever seen, and it was so simple. What face do we show our kids? How often do we unconsciously frown or look annoyed when talking to them? A smiling, loving face is what I want my kids to remember about their mother.
3) Hugs and Snuggles
Physical affection is good for kids, and for you. (Science says.) Plus, most young kids seek hugs and cuddles, especially from their mothers. We have two huge snugglers, and one kid who is less snuggly, but still likes plenty of hugs. It’s a quick and easy way to express love and creates warm and cozy memories for your kids.
Like attention, time is something parents often struggle to find enough of. But you can’t bond with your kids without time. You can’t get to know them without time. It doesn’t take a lot, but it does take some. After reading the book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time…: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling (affiliate link) by Amy McReady, we started a routine of taking ten minutes a day, one on one, with each of our kids, doing whatever they want. Focused time—even just ten minutes—really does work wonders. And your kids will always remember the time you specifically dedicated to bonding with and getting to know them.
5) Positive Words about Themselves and the World
Kids hear a lot of corrections from their parents. And they hear a lot of scary things about the world from pretty much everywhere. If they look to us to learn about themselves and the world, we need to make sure we’re conscientious about what we teach them.
Tell your kids what you admire and love about them. Describe their strengths honestly as you see them. And let them know that, while there’s plenty they can (and should) do to make things better, the world is not as bad as it may seem. We’re living in an amazing age, with limitless possibilities. And we need more people who grow up believing in a world and living in ways where love and goodness win, as least most of the time. That starts with childhood, which starts with us. A positive outlook is one of the best gifts we can give our children.
Wrap each of these gifts in love and tenderness, and relish in the fact that you didn’t have to fight the crowds or spend a cent to get them. Then give them to your kids and watch their faces light up with joy.
It’ll be the one of the best presents you’ll ever give—or get.