At my mom's group last week, a speaker shared some great truths about loving kids. The information is applicable to anyone who has a child or teenager in their life. I know it will help me with expressing love to my own children, as well as the kids in the youth group (though that will look different in some aspects for them!) I hope it's helpful to you as well.
She talked about speaking genuine acceptance into your child's life (or in scripture, they refer to it as "the blessing.") The best defense against a child (or teen) seeking acceptance in self-destructive ways is for them to grasp their worth in their parents' eyes and in God's eyes. Basically, you want to attach high value to each of your children in very tangible ways - not for what they do, but for who they are.
There are five basic parts of the blessing (as described in scripture.)
1. Meaningful Touch: communicating warmth, personal acceptance, and affirmation - whether it be holding hands, back scratching, a high five, playing with their hair, whatever.
2. A spoken message: speaking words of truth into their lives - children will live up to the words used to describe them. I have seen this over and over again, especially in teaching. Words carry tremendous weight, whether spoken or written. I have seen kids labeled as "trouble" turn out to be the best kids in my class- not because of anything I actually did - just because I attached a different meaning to them.
Along these lines, make sure kids know what God says about them...
That they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
That God does not make mistakes, even if people do. We are designed exactly the way we are for a reason.
That God has a purpose for our lives and we have the capacity to live a life of eternal significance.
That God is for us and not against us.
That He will never leave us.
That He loves us immeasurably and the cross bears witness to that.
3. Attaching “high value” to the one being blessed: spending time with our kids, without distractions. If you're in the car, talk to them. Shut off the music, don't spend time on the phone. At home, turn off the tv or the computer - whatever takes away your focus and attention from your kids. Include them in family decisions. Spend time individually with each child. If you have more than one, never compare them - this will only lead to one of them failing in some measure and will set the stage for rivalry, jealousy, etc.
4. Picturing a special future for the one being blessed : NOT on the basis of what we want our child to become (in order to fulfull or satisfy something missing in our own soul,) but picture a special future for who God has created them to be. Focus on what they do well and then picture a special future around THEIR strengths.
5. An active commitment to fulfill the blessing: It is one thing to say all these things, but it is another to support them with action. Know your child's world, get on their level, do what they love to do, and speak their language. Find your child's sweet spot and develop it. Remember to strengthen their talents and not your own desires for them. Pray God's word over their lives, every spare moment of every day. And last of all, live God's word out in your own life. Adore and pursue Jesus and see if they don't follow along:).