Let’s get real: Most of us Asians aren’t the most affectionate bunch, especially to our parents. With our friends or significant others, we lavish unto them sweet messages of love and appreciation, but somehow we fumble when it comes to showing affection to our parents. In fact, it can be so awkward that we tend to avoid it all together.
We may have grown up respecting mealtimes together at the table and family weekends, but explicitly showing our love just doesn’t run in our blood. Perhaps it’s the typical disciplinarian Asian upbringing across generations, where tough love seems to be the preferred parenting style, or it could point to a weak bond between parent and child.
While some of us are willing to give our parents a declaration of love on milestone celebrations like a big birthday or wedding, there are others who’d just find it unnatural, awkward, and even embarrassing, to spell those three special words out in bold.
If you and your parents are as conservative and reserved as the latter, here are 3 ways to show affection to your parents, that’s simple, easy, and just as meaningful:
1. Through your actions
As a child, I struggled with understanding the affection my parents give, as mainstream media made it seem as if without saying “I love you”, there isn’t another way. But my parents showered me with love in ways that weren’t just verbal – it was reflected in them bringing me to school, getting my favourite books, and making sure I was eating well. Some parents are just people of little words and believe that actions speak louder.
As cliche as it seems, showing your affection through actions are actually ways your parents feel love. Being home to accompany them for dinner or being around on days to help with chores tend to be little actions where they’d feel you love and care for them. Frequent practical actions, like helping them with groceries and cleaning, are more impactful than any one-off grand gestures. Your parents have worked hard to provide you with food and education, therefore these acts of service are very meaningful to them.
2. Listen to them
Familiar to many, parents can be quite naggy. When you were younger, you might have brushed off their comments and chosen not to take heed in their advice. But it isn’t until you’re a little bit older when you realise their words mean well.
Participate in active listening with them! When parents choose to chat with you and share their day, take the effort and time to have a conversation with them. Having meaningful conversations can help to deepen your bond and at the same time, make them feel appreciated.
Even if you no longer live in the same house, take 15 minutes out of your day to give them a call.
Receiving a call from their children, often lights up their day instantly. Trust me on this, my grandma spends her evenings waiting by the phone just to hear her children’s voices — she’s often excited and happy when her phone rings!
3. Prioritise them
It may seem like an irony, but family relationships are extremely important to parents — even if they find it hard to show you affection. Words may not be easily spoken but the phrase “Family comes first.” holds true in most families.
Prioritising them first may seem like a minor thing to you, but it means a lot knowing that their child puts them first. I never knew that was important until my mom sat me down once and had a conversation with me about how heartbreaking it was for her to come to a foreign country without her family. I realised that people often take for granted the proximity of their family.
So making the effort to spend Saturday evenings or public holidays with them instead of your friends are ways to prioritise and show them love.
We get that work and social life can get in the way of your time with them. But show that you prioritise them by setting aside time at least once a week for family activities. Spending time with them is an important way of showing you love them.
Saying “I love you” does not necessarily have to be verbally expressed. There are many other ways and these are just the three small, but important, ways you can show your affection and love to your parents.
Read more on other tough love questions.