Many years ago a survey was conducted, asking young children (4 – 8y.o) the question: “What is love?”
Their answers varied considerably and were obviously based on what was modelled to them in their environment……
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy 4
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri 4
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby 7
“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy 8
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann 4
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” (what an image!) Karen 7
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica 8
The responses they’ve given indicate that they’ve seen love displayed via the words, the body language, the emotion, via connection, the feelings and that it’s important.
It’s well known that when children feel loved and valued, they develop into secure and happy people. The same is true for us as adults!
How do we show children that we love them?
We can do it through our words, our touch, our availability, the acts of service we do, and it maybe via small gifts. Gary Chapman wrote an excellent book about love called ‘The Five Love Languages’ and the importance of them to both children and adults.
However the important place to start is by looking at yourself….
- How do I feel loved?
- How do I receive love?
- How do I show myself love (self-care)?
All of these are going to be on display to your child/ren. Based on what they see and hear, they will draw conclusions about what love is. For children to go onto having healthy relationships themselves, they need to know what that is.
If you are feeling unloved, if you are in a relationship where love isn’t shown in any way, or if you don’t take care of your self, your children will perceive that this is what love is, and they may seek out relationships where this is the case.
Conversely if you are in a loving relationship and you take good care of yourself in terms of health and fun, then this is what your children will strive for in their relationships.
If you don’t have a partner, all is not lost… love relationships are not just about partners – it’s friends and family too. So hugs between your siblings, giving flowers to your Mum, cooking a meal for an elderly relative are all displays of affection and regard, and great modelling for your children.
Have a conversation with your children… ask them ‘What is love?’ and ‘How do you know I love you?’
It will be interesting to see what they say.
Happy Loving Parenting!