Letting your children know they are loved

Published 5:40 pm Saturday, July 13, 2013

QUESTION: Today my daughter shouted that I just didn’t love her anymore. I can understand that she was angry, but can she really doubt that I love her?

 RESPONSE: In 1992, Star Tribune columnist Pat Gardner shared the following letter to her 9 year old, portions of which, with her permission, I gladly share with you years later, because it is as eloquent today as it was then.

“Dear Child of Mine,

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Today you feel unloved because you are not free to do whatever your heart desires. While I admire your vision, I have to limit your ventures. And I do this because I love you. Each year of growth will bring you more opportunities. But the year at hand is one to celebrate. No need to hurry. For now it’s best for you to live the 9 year old’s life. Ten will be here soon enough.

You say you feel unloved today because you’re asked to work at home. You are a very important member of our family. I need you and I know that you are capable of sharing the responsibilities.

Today you say you feel unloved because you share so much of your parents’ attention with your sisters. In one part of my heart, you will always be the center of the universe. But in reality, you’re one member of a family. That means sharing a lot of compromise. Besides, your sisters may prove to be the best friends you’ll ever have.

You say the rules make you feel unloved today. My hope is that the rules will make you a better person and I enforce them just because I love you. The rules will teach you to respect property, to treat others well, to complete a task and to discipline yourself. They might prevent a mouthful of cavities and a life of disorganization and chaos.

Children live in the present. Grown-ups live a little bit in the past and a little bit in the future, too. Parents know that today will become a foundation for the future. And so we make rules and set limits and sometimes we say “no.”

Like all parents, I’ve made mistakes. Busy at work, I’ve ignored you when you needed me. Overwhelmed with responsibility, I’ve overreacted to your misbehavior. I’ve been short of time, money, patience, ideas and energy, but never short of love.

Always, Mom.”

 To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org