Just when it seems like the commercial excess of winter holidays is winding down, along comes Valentine’s Day and the advertising barrage of "stuff = love." It’s tempting to want to give our children material items and Valentine’s Day treats, often at the expense of simple acts of love and other small meaningful gifts.
As parents, we may fall into this mindset because we want to provide the best life possible for our children. Rest assured, teaching the meaning of love, creating loving memories with children, and spending unhurried family time together are truly more valuable than any gift you can buy. Valentine’s Day is a good place to start.
Tips to Teach & Show Children the Meaning of Love
Here are a few ideas for Valentine’s Day that can be used throughout the year to show your children you love them:
- Express "I love you" in words and notes. A simple note that says, "I love you," under a pillow, in a backpack, or in a lunch bag can remind your child throughout the day of your love, even when you’re not together.
- Spend meaningful time with your children. As busy parents, we often find ourselves rushing from place to place and chore to chore. Even though it can be difficult at times, turn off the television, put down the cell phone, and spend meaningful time with your child. A simple place to start is to have dinner as a family as often as possible. Turn the television off and talk; talk about your day, your friends, maybe even take turns asking “what would you do if...” questions.
- Make something with your child for Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or complicated project. Keep it simple: do a Valentine’s Day craft for kids using everyday objects: make up a song while driving in the car, write a poem with refrigerator magnets, or cook a meal together.
- Celebrate your child’s best efforts rather than focus on achievements. Consider when your child was an infant learning to walk. You cheered every effort from pulling up, to walking while holding onto furniture, to first steps. As children get older, we tend to focus more on accomplishments like grades or winning games than we do on efforts, like learning a new concept or being willing to try a new activity. Be sure to offer words of encouragement to recognize your child’s efforts, even if they don’t result in winning achievements.
- Dream with your child. Remember as a child lying on your back and looking at the sky, naming the shapes of clouds floating by and thinking about life—just daydreaming. Simple thoughts and conversations can spark the imagination, plant a seed of curiosity, or begin a dream. So hang out and dream with your child.
- Let go, listen, and laugh. Our schedules have become so hectic and our commitments so plentiful that we often become rigid in our routines and focused on what needs to get done, rather than enjoying the present. Show your kids you love them by committing to slow down—even if it’s only one day a week—and let the schedule go. Lie on the couch and read a book together even when there are dishes in the sink. Make up jokes together even when there is dusting to be done. Take a walk together and ask your child what he wants to talk about, and listen intently, even if you have something else on your mind.
Teaching Children How to Express Love
Teaching children how to show love can be a gift that lasts for a lifetime. Here are a few simple ways to teach your child how to express love throughout the year:
- Model and teach your child about love, friendship, kindness, and inclusion. Being a conscious role model is as important as any other teaching strategy. Show your child the meaning of acceptance: what it means to be a good friend, to include others, and to demonstrate kindness.
- Express your love, gratitude, and compassion for the community. Giving and expressing love can be very powerful for both the giver and receiver. Think of ways to show gratitude, compassion, and love for the world and community.
- Be a good friend. School Valentine’s Day parties are common and the trading of cards is an exciting activity in most classrooms. This is a great opportunity to help children think about friendships. Whether you purchase or make cards, sit with your child as she creates or signs them and talk about her classmates and what it means to be a good friend.