How do We Begin to Love our Children Unconditionally?
“Love in a Nutshell”
by Sedef Orsel
Our daily lives are so fast and so hectic that we have little time to reflect and understand how our actions translate into a chain of events that significantly impact our children. Each day, parental love transfers into a belief in self-worth and abundance for our children. When we demonstrate parental love, our children are better able to grow more deeply in love with themselves.
I grew up in a family where my parents regularly told everyone how much they loved me. They’d declare their love right in front of me as if I wasn’t even there. Although they verbally expressed their love for me to everyone else, they never verbally expressed it to me. While they didn’t tell me they loved me, at times they did show it.
At a very early age I discovered that when my parents acted out of love, doing something for me willingly and without any conditional expectations, I felt like a precious flower. Yet when they’d done something for me as an obligation, and resented it even just a bit, I could tell. In fact, when they did something out of obligation for me, I felt like the worst child in the whole world. As a young child, feeling these two different extremes brought great confusion to me and as a result I began exploring my feelings about love.
In the most simple of definitions, love is an emotion felt by all human beings at tender moments. But it’s really so much more than that. Love is energy. It is not static. In fact, it is energy in motion, so it is an emotion. Yet it is not fair to classify love just as an emotion because love is something we need and long for. It’s often expressed as an action, but can be a concept or even an idea. Better said, love is the expression of human connection. Love is a shared experience.
But do a parent and child experience love in the same way? Not always. The amount of love a parent has for her child may be different than the child’s experience or understanding of the love his parent has for him.
We start on our parenting journey with the great expectation of having unconditional love for our children, but honestly, giving unconditional love is easier for some parents than it is for others. From the moment a mother feels a kick in her womb or sees an ultrasound picture of her growing baby, she may fall in love. For other parents, that love may not blossom until their baby is born. And for some, this magical moment happens way after their baby is born. Regardless of when a parent falls in love with her baby, her love is timeless because love is timeless. It’s never too early or too late for a human being to love.
Most of us would agree that we have the expectation that parents should unconditionally love their children. That’s the idea we’ve grown up with. In fact it’s more than an idea. It’s the ideal. However, I wonder whether we all act out of unconditional love each time we interact with our children.
When this idea of unconditional love is not reflected in our behavior, love is degraded to being only a concept. Thinking ‘I love my child’ but acting unloving while catering to his needs is a situation where love becomes only a concept. My earlier example about my parents’ declaration of their love for me to others without a direct act towards me is a good example of love being reduced to a concept.
As parents, we sometimes have the idea of parental love in our minds but forget to translate this into meaningful expressions of love towards our children. Thinking love and showing love are clearly two different things.
Each one of us has many different needs. We have physical needs, emotional needs, social needs, intellectual needs, and spiritual needs amongst many others. The emotions we feel are a self-communication of our met or unmet needs. As adults, we are capable of recognizing and catering to our own needs. As parents, we are charged with meeting the needs of our children. When a parent is self-connected, she can easily assess her needs through the guidance of her feelings. Once those needs are recognized and met, the feeling of self-love emerges. When we feel the urgency of an unmet need, recognize it and address it, we can feel relaxed, happy, easy, energized, expanded and enriched. This is because the source of self-love is self-connection. Once we are self-connected and can understand our feelings and meet our own needs, our self-regard is translated into self-respect, trust and clarity. When our needs are met, we feel good and celebratory and our energy is expanded into an expression of deeper self-connection. This expression of self-connection is proof of energy in motion, the emotion we call love.
Once a parent’s needs are truly met, she is feeling self-love and as a result, will have higher and unconditional regard for her child’s needs. With the clarity acquired thanks to the abundance of self-love, it is only natural to recognize what the child is feeling and the needs behind his feelings. For example, when a parent is experiencing self-love, she may better understand that there is more to her child’s poor behavior. She may realize that her child is acting out because of the hurtful feelings caused by an unmet need. For a parent who feels self-love, it becomes natural to address the child’s needs rather than trying to control the child’s behavior.
When a parent acts out of love and meets the needs of her child, she is giving love with no conditions attached. The child translates a parent’s simple act of meeting her child’s needs unconditionally into self-worth. When his parent meets a child’s needs, he draws unconscious conclusions about himself and senses the deep connection between himself and his parent. He may feel:
“I am loveable.”
“My parent sees me as I am and accepts me. I am worthy of my parent’s love.”
“My parent takes care of me. I trust that my needs will be seen and taken care of.”
When a parent understands her child’s needs and meets them, love becomes more than an idea or a concept. It becomes an emotion.
In reality, love has such vast meaning. Love is transcendent. Love is the deepest root of many ideas that we have about life. If a child is raised with abundant unconditional parental love, they believe and trust in the abundance of love. This later translates into a belief and trust in abundant love and resources, or more simply said, an abundant worldview. However, if parental love is scarce, this often translates into a stunted worldview, where the child will develop a sense that love and resources are limited.
Parents who understand their emotions and recognize and meet their own needs have self-respect and self-love. Parents with self-respect and self-love have regard for their children’s actions, emotions and needs. When a parents needs are met, it better allows her to meet her children’s needs with no conditions attached. When children’s needs are lovingly and unconditionally met, a deep connection is formed that builds trust between the parent and the child. As a result, the child’s self-worth improves and the belief in abundant love that transcends life also grows. Children who grow up with self-loving and self-respecting adults turn into parents who can give unconditional love to their own children.
Sedef Orsel is an ACPI Certified Coach for Parents & Families. She can be reached at email@example.com or find her online at
“Love in a Nutshell” is a chapter from the brand new Heartwise ™ Parenting e-book titled Parenting Responsively.