Loving our Children: Dealing with Differences

Communicating love to our children can be challenging – and even more so in the face of differences and difficulties. Noelle kindly agreed to share her parenting journey and some practical advice.

Hi Noelle! Could you introduce yourself and your family please?

The Ow Family (2012)I have 3 sons aged 8, 10 and 12. After delivering my second, with my husband’s blessings, I decided to quit my job and be a stay home mother. I want to be there during my children’s formative years to impart the right values into their lives.

My second son has dyslexia, and this affects him academically and socially. Being home allows me to support him better during some of these challenging moments. There are good days and not-so-good days staying home with 3 boys. However, it has been rewarding watching my children’s “firsts” first-hand, and being able to be there for them during both the good and bad times.

I hope you don’t mind me asking – since J2 has dyslexia, does the way you communicate love to him differ from the other two boys?

J1’s primary love language is Quality Time. J2 has a mix of two: Words of Affirmation, and Quality Time, while J3’s primary love language is Physical Touch. That itself shows that the way we communicate love to him is different. For example, we will thank him for setting up the table for meals, and this makes him happy.

Dyslexia is a learning disability, which means that J2 doesn’t do well compared to his peers in school. The low scores invite teasing and name-calling from his classmates sometimes, and it affects his self-esteem.

At times, even though he may know the answers to questions he will be uncertain and need reassurance from us that he is on the right track. We have to constantly encourage him not to give up and believe in himself.

When it comes to tests and exams, even though he may not have passed the papers, as long as he did better than the previous round we will affirm him for his effort and progress rather than focusing on why he didn’t pass.

It looks like being intentional in showing your love plays a key role…

Yes! With 3 sons, half my time spent with them involves mediating their squabbles when they are playing with each other. The remaining half of the time is supervising their school work … Not exactly the most easy situation to express love per se.

When it comes to loving my 3 boys, I have to intentionally pull myself out of the ‘supervisory’ role and express my love for them. I also make it a point to have some time for reflection towards the end of each day; if I remember that I have not expressed love to them, I will do so during the time of prayer we have together at night.

Speaking to my children in their preferred language does not come easily or instinctively. Honestly, even though J3 and I share the same primary love language (Physical Touch), there were moments when I was supervising or disciplining him and found it challenging to express his love language.

In the beginning it took a lot more effort and intentionality, but with time, it gets better. I also realised that when I put in more effort to express my love for my sons, they are more open in relating to me in the many areas of their lives.

So how do the boys relate to you?

It helps that my sons talk to me about almost anything, every day.

J1 will sometimes come up to me personally and talk about school, such as the things he found funny. He also enjoys art like I do, so we have a common topic that we can always fall back on. My time talking with him is enjoyable to the point that I sometimes ask him which pair of shoes goes well with an outfit – which is something that you would expect mother-daughter pairs and not mother-son pairs to do!

J2 attends dyslexia classes twice a week. During the times when I send him to and from classes, we have our “alone time” with each other. We talk about school and things he is curious about. I like how he always remember (and does not mind) saying, ‘I love you’, in person and over the phone. It reminds me to affirm him of my love too.

J3 is the youngest and also the smallest in built. It is natural that we protect him instinctively by carrying and holding his hands. Even his brothers enjoy piggy-backing him around in the name of play. He also often holds my arm and slips it around his shoulder. It is his way of telling me he needs love, his way.

With three boys, I have to intentionally make time for one-on-one moments with them. It is something I always tell myself not to neglect. They grow up so fast…

Time passes fast indeed. Any suggestions on effectively communicating love to our kids?

As parents, we have to know both our personal love language and our children’s. Having this awareness is the first step to remind ourselves to speak each other’s preferred love language. It might be awkward the first few times as it could be unnatural for most of us, but with practice, it becomes a little easier.

Also, it helps if we show our love for our spouse openly. My husband and I will hug and kiss in front of our sons. Sometimes they will join in the hug, or we will pull them into our embrace. When such little actions become daily affairs, it becomes easier for us to convey our love to one another.

For the record, it didn’t start that way for me. I was raised in a traditional Asian family where my parents didn’t display love for one another and to us children openly. Thus it was awkward when I first started displaying affection for my husband in front of our sons, but it got more enjoyable as time went by.

Before we end, do you have any advice for parents of kids with dyslexia (or any other condition) on loving their child?

I believe that recognizing and acknowledging that our child has a learning disability is the first step to discovering how to love them. In Singapore we parents seem to celebrate our children’s achievements more than who they are as person.

At the end of the day, it is not just about the academic results, but about their progress and their character. We learn to celebrate our children’s little successes in all their milestones – and this has to go beyond their studies.

I’d sum it up like this: it’s about moving forward together with them, one step at a time.

Do you have any stories to share on showing love to sons? Share with us by leaving a comment below!

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