Do you show affection to your children every day (even several times a day)? And do they do the same to you? It may be a little kiss on the cheek before they jump out of the car or a hug the first moment you see them in the morning; the point is to show physical affection toward them every day.
If you have gotten out of the habit or have let the hugs fall by the wayside, start back up. Hugs are important! I am deeply convinced of this. Sometimes as our children get a bit older, they may act “too grown up” to give Mom or Dad a hug, especially in front of someone else. But remember to be tender with your children. It is almost impossible for a child’s heart to stray from you if you show each other appropriate physical affection every day.
If you are in a pattern of being tender with your children, you will be able to tell immediately if things are not quite right. Sometimes when they are in their teens, you might notice a hug that lingers a little longer than usual, and you will know that they need encouraging. Other times you might feel a tightness in the shoulders of a child who is upset or the quick breaths of the child about to cry. The tender moments you share throughout the day keep you in tune with your loved ones. When the habit of tenderness is broken, it's much easier to drift apart—in any of our relationships.
Appropriate physical touch between fathers and children is also important though it may be shown in different ways, like chasing, wrestling between dads and kids, or even contact sports.
Don't forget to verbally express your love on a regular basis, too! If this sounds hard or if you've gotten out of the habit, you can always call across the house, and say to your thirteen-year-old son, "Hey, Sam! Did anyone tell you that they love you today?" Then wait and you will probably hear, "No, Mom." Then you call out, "Well, I love you!" And then you will likely hear, "Thanks, Mom. I love you, too!" Children or teens who do not regularly receive affection or other expressions of love may become exasperated without even realizing why.*
Teach your children that kindness, thoughtfulness and tenderness are highly valued and a source of great encouragement to you and the rest of the family. Encourage them to share a hug and an "I love you" with one another as well as with their parents. This simple training will also go a long way in minimizing sibling rivalry.
*To learn more about how parents unintentionally exasperate their children, including a helpful "quiz," see the chapter entitled, Managing a Child in Entrusted with a Child's Heart.