Posted by: Cathi Brese Doebler | January 23, 2009

Affectionate parents

People are different in so many ways. In the matter of how we show affection, this is definitely true. Not every parent is going to show physical or verbal affection to their children easily, or in the same way. It might be that some parents didn’t receive much affection as a child themselves…or that physical or verbal affection was just something that never felt natural.


Regardless of the reason, as a parent it is still important to remember that children need, and crave, affection. From the time they are born this is a need for children. Infant’s sense affection through your voice and touch, and it begins immediately. It always amazed me how my children seemed to know my voice from the moment they were born.


“Greet one another with a holy kiss,” said Paul in Romans 16:16. Paul was talking about how we treat each other, and a holy kiss is surely a way of showing physical affection. “Show kindness and mercy to one another,” we’re instructed in Zechariah 7:9b. Verbal affection is something that God asks us to give each other. And these same words of guidance we hear in these verses pertain to our children too.


Below are some simple ways to give your child affection on a regular basis:

  • After you put your child into the car seat, give your child a quick kiss. I made this a habit and it was so easy to do on a daily basis.
  • When your child comes to you with a question, get down physically to their level, look him or her in the eye, and answer your child. Making eye contact with your child is so personal.
  • Play a wrestling or tickling game, or a physical game like “Twister” or “Ha”. Remember the game Ha? Here’s how it works: Everyone lays on the floor and rests the back of their head on another person’s stomach. The first person in the line on the floor says “Ha” one time, then the second person in the line says “Ha, Ha”, then the third person in line says, “Ha, Ha, Ha”, etc. Each person in line continues to add another “Ha”. Of course what happens is when the people are saying “Ha”, it makes their abdomen’s rise and bounce the other person’s head. You keep playing the game until people start to giggle…
  • Hold hands with your child while you pray together at bedtime.
  • Rub your child’s back as you sing them a bedtime song.
  • Give your child a hug goodnight, a hug goodbye before school, a hug hello.
  • Cuddle on the couch while you tell each other stories about the day, make up new stories together, or read books.
  • Tousle your child’s hair gently or touch his or her shoulders as you help your child with homework questions they have.
  • Say “I’m proud of you. You did so well when you…” and then tell your child specifically what he or she did well.
  • Say “I love you.” Sometimes when I’m sitting with my kids and we’re just hanging out at the table, or in the living room, I’ll say, “I love you, did you know that?” There is no special occasion, just a time when it feels right to tell them.

There are so many other ways to show affection, and demonstrate God’s love at the same time. These are just a few of my ideas. Please share other ideas you have in the comments.


  1. Cathie – This seemed so easy to do when my kids were little. As they got older sometimes we to be careful not to forget to give this affection, even if the type of affection gradually changed. It is especially difficult for dads as they see their children growing up they may feel uncomfortable and unsure about how to still show their affection. Because of this, a dad may unconciously withdraw physical affection, and his child loses out on this important part of the relationship. He may have to make a special effort to put an arm around his daughter’s shoulder, even though she no longer climbs up on his lap, or still give his older boy a squeeze, even though he may make a face and seem to “grin and bear it”.
    As a mom, my difficulty started when my daughter was a prepubescent. She began to have mood swings and seemed at one minute to be a baby, and the next a young woman. Even during my worst days of exasperation, I made it a point to poke my head into her room before bed to say “I love you”. Sometimes, only then would she reach up for a hug. As a parent, I came to see that I may have to make a decision to love my children, even when their behavior makes them somewhat unloveable. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God didn’t wait for us to be loveable, in His grace he decided to love us just the way we were. How can I do less with my children?

    • Yes, I think the age of the child definitely impacts the ways to express your affection.

      And it’s so nice to be reminded that we’re all loved by God, even when we feel unlovable.

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