Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day upon us, I thought I'd share with you some special gifts to show your child you love them that last longer and mean more than just sending them a greeting card. So, let me get to the heart of the matter with these suggestions:

1. Use plenty of positive words with your child each and every day to build their self-esteem and self-confidence. Saying "good job" or "you are being so nice" are great ways to say I love you.

2. If your child is angry or in a bad mood, give him or her a hug, pat on the back, or a secret sign or gesture of affection that says you love him, and then talk about what's bothering him at bedtime or when he begins to feel better.

3. Discipline by reward and restriction - not by force - is another great way to show you care about your children. Kids need structure in their lives, and doing this when they are young may enable them to have a more positive set of values and structure in their lives as they get older.

4. Make time for your children each day, but also build-in what I call "special time" every week by doing something exclusively with each of your children that they enjoy. For example, invite your child to cook with you if they enjoy cooking; another may want to draw or paint with you if they enjoy doing that; and a third may want to go with you to the library to look at books if they love to read. Doing this allows both of you some special time together and will allow your child to realize how much you love them for their unique talents and interests.

5. Believe it or not, a great Valentine gift for your child is to keep them healthy by making sure they get their check-ups, that their immunizations are up to date, that they exercise regularly and that your home is safety-proofed to reduce the risk of accidents occurring.

6. Finally don't forget to simply say "I love you" to your child or teenager on a daily basis. You can never say this enough.

Hopefully, tips like this will go a lot farther than Cupid's arrows when it comes to hitting the bull's-eye and truly showing your children how much you love them and in return, how much they will love you, so that Valentine's Day is not just celebrated on February 14th, but every day of the year.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and on WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids video archives at www.fletcherallen.org/firstwithkids.