By Amy Dee-Kristensen

Four Cost Free Things Kids Need from Their Parents

1. Time:

Years ago I substitute taught speech class to 8th grade middle school kids. Their assignment was to give a speech about their best memory. One boy, dressed gothic complete with dyed black hair and eyeliner spoke about an afternoon he spent fishing with his dad. He talked about catching some fish, and the quietness of the lake that day. But his focus was about laughing, talking, and simply just being with his dad. He ended the speech by saying that when he gets "down" he sometimes just thinks about that great afternoon, and the feeling it gave him.

This was the basic message in each and every speech given by these too-cool-for-school middle school kids. One one lady, dressed in expensive, hip clothes spoke about a special Christmas but didn't mention even one gift she'd received. Instead she talked about her extended family sitting around the dinner table together and the games they'd played afterwards. This message I took home and the message I want to give you is this: Your kids will ask you for lots of stuff but what they remember and really need is your time.

2. Undivided Attention:

I multitask. Too often when my daughters come into my office to talk, I try to continue typing while listening to them and within a few minutes they sulk off. When I ask them what's wrong, they say "nothing, you're busy. I'll tell you later". Later usually doesn't come. I forget or they forget and that moment is lost.

Lately, I've tried something new. When my kids want to talk while I am in the middle of typing a thought I ask them to wait saying "I really want to give you my undivided attention so let me quick finish this thought" then I finish the sentence or paragraph. Afterwards, I push away from the computer and look them in the eyes to hear them.

With over six billion people on the planet, we all want to be special to someone. You show your kid they are special to you by giving them your undivided attention. Afterall, if you don't care enough to really actively listen, who else will?

3. To know you are proud of them:

I turned fifty this year and have been a professional speaker for well over twenty years. I've spoken to audiences all over the world. Recently, my mom attended one of my events. There were over six hundred women in the audience. After my presentation, the room was lined up with women who wanted to meet me, buy my book, and compliment me about my speech. I appreciated all the kind words but the words of my mother mattered the most. I still replay her comment "I can't tell you how very wonderful you were!"

Tell your child that you are proud of the person they have become. Tell your child that you are proud of the way they are handling a difficulty and tell them you have faith in their ability to make good decisions. Tell your child that you are proud of the hard work they've put into a project. Let your child know that you "see" them.

Once again, in a world with over six billion people, everyone needs to know that someone in the world has singled them out and sees them for the special person they are and the unique gifts they offer.

For your child, let that someone be you.

4. Unconditional Love

"I love you forever, for always, and no matter what" is the mantra my daughters have heard from me throughout their lives. Now, I will confess that I am far from a perfect parent. I've not always been thrilled with their choices and I've not always parented in a loving, positive way. But bottom line is that my daughters know there is nothing they can do that will cause me to stop loving them.

As a psychiatric nurse I've worked with children and adolescents in a behavioral health hospital. Some of the kids I've worked with have made some really bad life choices and some of them are really hardened kids. But even the toughest kid is afraid that their parent will turn away and quit loving them.

Life is a series of twists and turns and we all mess up along the way. Parental love gives a kids power steering to get around those fast, dangerous corners.

Let your child know that your love for them is non-negotiable.

Amy Dee Kristensen is a humorist and motivational speaker. Learn more about motivational, humorist, speaking at!

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