They learn from us and it starts at home.
Can you guess the three most spoken words in our house? No, they're not "clean your room," but that is a close second.
The three most spoken words in our home are: I love you. The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice, so we need to make our words matter. From the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they close their eyes to sleep, my children hear the phrase more times than I can count.
We say it often and we say it with conviction. Because, at the end of the day, I want my kids to know that our love is unconditional and that no matter what mistakes were made, they are completely loved.
While telling them over and over how much they mean to us is great, we also want them to know more about love. There is a big world out there and a lot of love to give and receive.
Ways to Teach Your Children About Love
1. Model It
One of the most effective ways to teach kids about love is to model it daily. It's in the small gestures and the kind words. It's saying thank you and please. It's giving a hug and sharing a smile. My husband and I make sure that we model what love looks like every day. We hug one another and we hug our kids. We hold hands. We act kind to one another. It matters and the kids see it.
From collected canned goods for the food kitchen to donating to a local animal rescue group, giving love to others outside of the family is just as important. We emphasize the kindness and make sure we ask the kids how it feels to help others. Showing compassion as a family to those who need some help is a powerful display of love.
3. Make a List
To love and be loved is one of the greatest gifts, so we make a point of talking about those we love. When the kids were younger, we created a craft with a heart in the center and then wrote the names of everyone who loved us around the heart. It was a great way to visualize how many people truly cared.
4. Create Silent Signals
Love doesn't have to be loud and boisterous. In fact, sometimes, the quiet signals mean the most. My daughter and I hold up our first three fingers, one at a time, to stand for "I love you" when she gets on the bus in the morning. When we're holding hands and walking, my kids know that three gentle squeezes means the same thing. Those quiet, almost secret expressions of love mean the world to all of us. My aunt used to hold my hand and give it a super-hard, one-second squeeze and without a word, I knew just what she was trying to say. That was over 30 years ago and it still impacts me today.
5. Read Books
Children's books are a great way to introduce the concept of love and how it's expressed. From the love that Archibald Craven had for his wife in The Secret Garden to the love that Auggie's parents have for him in Wonder, love takes on many challenges in stories that were written for children. Picture books to young adult novels, the ideas of love are never far from the heart of the storyline. Read a lot and read frequently with your children to expose them to different ways that love is expressed.
And if all else fails, if there is no time for doing more, a hug and the quietly whispered words, "I love you" will always be a great way to teach kids about love.