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Tips for Making Kids Feel Special in Large Families is a guest post written by Dr. Laura Thomas, licensed psychologist out of California. 

It is not so difficult making children feel special; whether their family is large or small. What is difficult is that in large families, there is simply more effort required on the part of the parents to relate to each child individually rather than to the children as a group.  To feel special, a child must be noticed, accepted for being who they are, and praised or appreciated accordingly.  It does not need to be around the big things (an outstanding talent for example; or straight A’s), although there is nothing wrong with appreciating and praising these things. But the more mundane is where people live most of the time.  Thus, comments on helping a sibling with their math, or being patient with a family member, or handling a disappointment with grace is worthy of a favorable comment from the observant parent.

Specialness is conferred by parents onto children as they are seen, known, and appreciated for their uniqueness.  Thus a parent must know their children to do this.  To comment out loud to the child in front of other family members assists a child in feeling special.  Obviously, this would backfire if favoritism is perceived.  Additionally, the ‘out loud’ comments must be in keeping with what the child can receive.  For example, a public praise might be more difficult for a shy child to truly receive.  Accommodation to the child’s temperament should prevail.

Specialness can also be experienced by children when a parent makes time regularly to spend say 15-30 minutes each week (perhaps every two weeks in larger families) with just them; doing something they like doing, at their level of engagement.  This could be considered a weekly “date” with each child.  Activities could range from going out for ice cream,  to playing a special game, to” girl talk” between a mother and daughter , or “boy talk” between father and son on any of a number of topics.

Specialness is also experienced when parents remember what is going on in their children’s lives and maintain an active interest without quizzing them endlessly about their lives, which can discourage conversation.

A deep interest in the life of each child, when demonstrated and communicated by the parent to the child, enriches the child’s life and promotes that sense of being ‘special’ which is just another way of saying the child feels well loved by the parents.  It is well worth the effort for parents of large families to endeavor to communicate this to each individual child in their home.

To hear more from Dr. Thomas, check out her site A Time To Grow.

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