One of the most important things kids need is to know that they are loved. I also think it's important for all my cherubs to know how many people love them. That said, we have a little game in our house that helps accomplish this goal. It's the Who Loves You? tickle game.
It never really needed much of an introduction in our home. I didn't sit everyone down and explain the rules. It just sort of evolved.
While cuddling with a cherub I ask them, "Who loves you?"
From there they have all the control. If they don't want to play, all they have to do is answer, "Mommy." I will agree with them and give them a big hug. (I'll often go through a list of family and friends' names – reminding the cherub that lots of people love them.)
However, the fun is when they say someone else. They might answer, "Daddy," or a sibling or grandparent. I say, "Yes...who else loves you?" As they answer all the people in their lives, I begin tickling them and saying, "Yes...who else?" My kids all know the game stops as soon as they say my name. Of course, they know all bets are off if they start including the pets before they say my name. I will tickle them to pieces!
With Dude and Dolly I added a couple more questions that I think are important to their story.
How much do I love you?
Will I love you forever?
Do I love you even when I can't see you?
The correct answer results in a hug. The "wrong" answer brings tickles and roughhousing.
That last question is really important. I've drilled that one in to Dude and Dolly's head because all along the State's plan has been for them to leave me. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure they knew I wasn't abandoning them. I wanted them to know deep in their hearts that my love for them would never die.
And now that Dolly is sad and missing her first mom a lot lately, I can turn it around. Dolly finds comfort when I tell her that even though she hasn't seen Mommy C in over four months, Mommy C loves her even when she can't see her.
The game is helpful and often gives me a clue about how they've been feeling. If they don't want to play the game it's generally because they are sad and are feeling like no one really loves them. If Dolly immediately says bio family names, I'll know she's missing people and hasn't felt like she could say something about it. If no bio family names are said, I can take it as an opportunity to remind them of the rest of their family and it can even spark a healthy conversation. If there's a nice balance between all the people in their lives I'll know that things are going relatively OK.
It's a fun game that leaves the child completely in control. Lots of kids need the physical touch and many enjoy roughhousing. It's a great way to give them power over it. Sometimes the cherubs will come to me with a huge grin on their face and say, "Mommy...you don't love me," just to start things up!