Being Loved And Feeling Seen Are Not the Same Thing––Kids Need Both

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and triloks/Getty

When you live in a big family, you sometimes get lost in the shuffle. I find this happening a lot with my middle son. He is Mr. Go-With-The-Flow. He doesn’t rock the boat, and isn’t big on demanding time nor attention from anyone. This guy is the first to put his opinion or preference to the side when it comes to things like choice of movie or toppings on a pizza if it means that the majority is happy. He is a pleaser. While having a sweet child like this can be a dream to a parent, it isn’t always easy to be that kid, and sometimes their feelings get hurt.

He knows that I love him, but it is just as important for him to know that I see him. What does that mean? I see him. It means that I understand that he has opinions, and feelings, and value. His thoughts are just as important as everyone else’s and he needs to know that it is OK to use his voice and speak his mind. When I say that I see him, I mean that I recognize his emotions and his fears, his joys and his talents. He isn’t just a face in our crowded house. He is vital to our family unit.

Kids need to understand that they are seen, even if they think that they are not always heard. Parents’ lives are busy. We are working and taking care of a house and managing kids’ schedules and trying to find time to make dinner in between. It is easy for our children to go unnoticed. Even though you are with them, how many times have you completely zoned out when they were telling you a story? Your mind is so filled with just the day-to-day that it can sometimes be hard to focus. But our children need our focus.

Knowing that you are seen helps to create a sense of self worth and gives a child self-confidence. When you feel good about yourself, you have a positive attitude and that can be contagious. People want to be around people that our happy. As our children grow, their attitude and the way that they carry themselves will aid them in many aspects of their lives including intimate relationships and future careers. People who feel seen feel valued and are successful.

So how do you make your child feel seen? When they are doing something well, compliment them. When they are having a hard day, ask them how they are feeling. If they need some one-on-one time, give it to them. Put down your phone or close your laptop and just listen. These don’t need to be grandiose gestures; just a little extra attention here and there is what our children need.

We are our children’s first teachers and we set the example for their behavior. It is important to teach our children to recognize other people. Encourage your kids to be complementary and empathetic to their siblings and friends. Help them to understand how far a kind word or gesture can go. We have all seen the classmate who is left out; make sure that your child knows to include them and to be a friend. Kindness matters. And when someone is kind to you, you feel seen.

If we’re doing our jobs, and I would say that most of us are, our children know that we love them. We tell them that not only in words, but also in actions. We feed and clothe them. We drive them to school and pick them up from practice. We help with their homework and calm them after a bad dream. There is no doubt that a child needs to feel that love every day.

Take the time to go beyond telling them that you love them. Make the extra effort to recognize that which you love about them. Every child brings something special to the table. We have all been given gifts; for some, it is a talent like a musical instrument or being a gifted athlete. In others, they may be an empath and excellent listener. Learn to be intuitive with your child. Find out what it is that makes them feel the most valued, and do your best to help them to make that characteristic shine.

When the family is deciding on dinner, ask for everyone’s opinion. It may not be a consensus, but every vote counts. When your child brings home a good grade, post it on the fridge for the whole family to see. If your child has a part in the school play, sit in the audience and beam with pride. In the end, those are the things that matter. You child will feel your love the most when they are seen for the gift that they are.

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