If you're already a parent, then you know all too well that raising a son is no easy task.

Every day presents new challenges and requires patience, understanding, and empathy - not to mention the unconditional love that every son deserves. The emotional bond between a parent and son is crucial for his growth and development.

In our society, though, that bond is deteriorating day after day. Most of us have seen it happening in our own families and personal experiences -far too many young boys growing up without the emotional support they need to become healthy, mature men.

Raising young men can be difficult because they are often in their world with different needs than girls might have. However, parents who show their sons love at every age will reap the rewards of an emotionally healthy family for generations to come!

Here are best practices for how to show your son love at every age.

The Newborn Stage

Babies mostly need milk, sleep and a fresh diaper to keep them happy, but they also need a ton of love.

How do you show your baby empathy and love in the beginning?

Soothe him when he is crying. Sing lullabies to him when it is nap time. Nurture him when he needs a meal. Tickle, hold and play peekaboo with him when he is awake. Soak up all of the snugglings you can because one day, he will be bigger and won't want to snuggle anymore.

The Infant Stage

Your infant will be curious and alert during this early stage. He is starting to learn how the world works so that you can help him! Teach him body parts when he touches his mouth or eyes. Read books with funny faces and colorful pictures for him to explore with his hands.

Introduce him to daily affirmations in front of a mirror. Use phrases like:

  • "You are loved."
  • "You are kind."
  • "You can do anything."
  • "You are brilliant."

Affirmations can help little ones stay positive even when they are feeling discouraged or upset.

The Toddler Stage

There will come a time when it seems as if your baby boy has transitioned into a toddler overnight. You may find yourself saying "NO" a lot during this stage; that's normal! Your little one is learning and testing limits.

When he does something you don't like, acknowledge his feelings by saying things like "I can see that you are angry" or "You're frustrated because...this will help him understand that his feelings are normal and he is still loved and supported by you.

Using affirmations when encouraging good behavior goes a long way to help your little one learn about respecting others and himself. When he's done something that makes you happy, such as picking up his toys or sharing with a friend, praise him by saying something like "I'm proud of you for sharing" and "thank you

When he comes into your view, always be happy to see him no matter what mood you're in. You might be working, and it might seem like an interruption to you, but it may mean a lot more to your son, who needs a little attention or needs to feel close to you at that moment.

Introduce forts to your toddler. They are wired for fort-building. Encourage him to have a nap in it or even sleep for the night in his fort. Remind him that you will always protect him and that he is safe inside the fort. It will be a happy memory for you both for years to come.

Be very patient. At this stage, toddlers will ask an average of 200 to 300 questions per day. Yes, you read that right. Try to patiently answer any question you can because his mind is curious. It will speak volumes of your patience, and your son will know that his numerous queries are welcomed and encouraged.

Don't forget to have fun with your toddler too. It will keep you and him sane

Remember that toddlers are very impressionable and can learn new things at a breakneck speed. Be sure to lavish him with praise when he does something good. He needs your guidance and love so he can grow into a responsible man.

The Kid Stage

You're probably weeping as you realize you're shopping in the boy's section for clothing and are no longer in the toddler aisles. It happens in a flash. Your son is moving up, and so are his needs.

Embrace his daredevil side to a certain degree. If he's interested in four-wheeling or getting a dirtbike, take him to lessons beforehand so he can gain a sense of experience and learn all the safety measures in a controlled environment. Sometimes, you just need to push your boys to get out and take a risk.

You will need to train your son to toughen up, especially if he's continually taking risks or being adventurous. Don't run to him every time he falls or skins a knee. Allow him to stand up and dust himself. He needs your compassion, not your anxiety over his pains. He could wind up mimicking your behavior and freak out over every little accident. Teach him to be strong and brave, this helps keep the small mishaps in his life just that.

Teach your son how to be resourceful and start finding solutions to his problems. He needs to persevere and learn how to problem-solve and not think of every problem as a brick wall.

Encourage him to play outside and embrace his adventurous side. Plan something fun like a campout in your backyard. The experience will stay with him forever and be a source of good memories for you both to reflect on in the future.

The Preteen Stage

Welcome your son's transition into manhood.

Buckle up, though, because his hormones will be at an all-time high as he starts to go through many changes with his body.

By now, he should know right from wrong, and you should have fewer worries about his behavior. During this stage, you must teach him complex concepts like respecting himself, being confident and standing up for his beliefs, standing up to bullies and respecting other people's opinions.

Preteen boys are filled with wonder and excitement for the world as they begin to grow older. He will look to you for answers, so be sure to give him plenty of information while being open about your feelings. It's not good to tell him not to talk about his feelings because he needs someone he can relate to but always talk to him like a parent and not his friend.

This is when you should teach him family values and morals that he can take with him when he sets out on his life adventure. Teach him to fish, how to change a tire, or even how to tie a tie. Even if he's not interested now, he will appreciate the time spent together when he is older.

This is also a time when you should let go of grudges and show unconditional love. Children grow up far too quickly these days, so soak it all up while they are with you. Don't be afraid to discipline him either in this stage. It's your responsibility to raise your son in what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, and what is true.

When he makes a mistake, though, be sure to comfort him and let him know that he is loved. Whatever you do, do NOT flip out. In his mind, whatever he did, he doesn't grasp the hurt or harm or disrespect his action may have caused. The way you choose to react to your son's mistakes will have a long-term effect on his life from that very moment moving forward.

Instead, please sit down and help him to see what he did was wrong. Always end the conversation, reminding him that he is loved for who he is and not his actions no matter what he does. Your son's happiness is your happiness, and you want him to know that even in his worst moments, you will always accept him for who he is. Focusing on what he did wrong or how uncomfortable it may make you feel will cause him long-term damage that can be difficult to rectify.

The Teen Stage

Your son has gone through puberty and hit a growth spurt. He now hovers over you and carries a deep voice throughout your home. You may start to feel disconnected at this stage, but there are a ton of opportunities for bonding.

For starters, make his friends feel comfortable at your house. If his friends feel comfortable, he will too. Offer to grill hamburgers or hot dogs for dinner and get to know them without making it a big deal. Let him know you're interested in who his new friends are and what they like to do for fun by asking questions when the opportunity presents itself.

You will feel much more comfortable knowing that your son is safe at home and who his friends are. Your son will see that you care and value his friendships, which means he is undoubtedly loved. So invite that rowdy group of boys over, rent a new movie, stream whatever is new, and serve them plenty of food.

As long as their kind of fun doesn't involve a keg, you'll be fine.

Ask your son if he's up for a late-night movie with you. It's such a simple gesture. He will likely say yes. Grab some popcorn and his favorite snacks, and you've got about two hours of bonding time that didn't need much planning or effort.

Try to stay away from lecturing your son on right and wrong. Instead, try filling his beautiful brain with inspiring stories that teach him morals. If he sees that there are consequences for his actions, it might make him more inclined to think about what he's doing instead of just reacting. Don't forget to remind your son that you will always love him no matter what choices he makes in life.

This is also when you need to start preparing yourself to let go because your son will be leaving for college soon.

Before he leaves, splurge and plan a big trip. Go to the mountains or somewhere special. Watch videos together to learn about your destination. Just make sure you don't show him a map because chances are he has no idea where anything is and will end up lost. It could be an opportunity for you to teach him how to read a map in case he's ever without technology and can't use a smartphone to find his way back to civilization.

It is also time for you to invite your son into your world, so he becomes more comfortable around adults. Encourage him to step up into the world of adults since he's pretty close to becoming one. He needs to know how to hold conversations and proper social mannerisms. He will begin to understand social cues and how he should react in a variety of different situations.

He should know the basic social norms that most people follow.

Since he may not know these things already, it is now a good time for you to teach him how to act like a proper adult. Teach him that misbehaving in public will always get him the attention he doesn't want and maybe even scorn from those around him. You are an essential role model for your son, so it is time for you to step up and truly become that role model by inspiring him and leading him out into the world.

The Adult Stage

Your son has officially become a man and is out on his own. Cue the tears, and grab a box of tissues. It will be ok, and there are still many opportunities to show your son you love him.

Send him letters or cards and let him know you are proud of who he has become. Congratulate him on any wins he has, from starting a new job, getting a promotion, getting certified, passing a difficult exam, or even moving into a new place.

Treat him to coffee or lunch. Treat yourself to a soda or iced tea and congratulate yourselves on being able to be adults together.

Don't push aggressive demands on your son now that he is an adult, like calling you every day or coming home for every holiday. He's a man now, he needs space, and it will make those calls or visits so much more special for him when he has had time to miss you. You may miss hanging out with him, but you'll get that time back when he has kids of his own and needs to get away from them for an evening!

Have a heart-to-heart over one of your lunch dates, and let your son know how truly proud you are of him. Sometimes, all your son wants is validation. It's incredible how far a few kind words go.

Let him know that you will always be there to talk about anything, no matter what it is. The only thing he needs to do is ask and make sure the time is convenient for you both. Like I said before, your son doesn't want you as his therapist, but he will always feel most comfortable with you when he needs to vent or talk about something.

He could be struggling with his career choices and wants some insight from you.

Start by asking him if he has been talking to anyone else about it, like the other parent or sibling. If not, just let him know that you will always be open to listening to what he needs to say and never judge him for how he might feel.

Always be grateful for any opportunity you get to spend time with your adult son. Never guilt him into seeing you even though you miss him like crazy. His life is hectic, just like yours, and it's still crucial for you to always be glad whenever you see him. They need to know that your relationship is not based on the amount of time spent together.

If you practice even half of this list, you will be amazed at the fine man you raised when he became an adult. It's at that moment that you realize all of your efforts and hard work has paid off.

It doesn't matter which stage you're currently in with your son. Just remember, no matter what, the biggest thing is just to let them know you care.

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