Teaching Your Kids To Love Others (and Themselves)
By: Lauren Redding
We really enjoy holidays in my family. My oldest daughter counted down the days to Valentine’s Day this year, beginning January 2nd. We made all of the heart crafts and ate all of the candy in preparation for February 14th. Valentine’s Day is all about romance, but this year, I have challenged myself to focus on how we love in our house. Do we show love to our family and also to our neighbors? Do we show love to ourselves?
When my kids grow up, I want them to remember feeling loved. So instead of talking about love just on this day, what if we focused on loving each other all year long? I want my kids to know how to love their neighbors and how to love themselves. I want them to be confident and proud of who they are. I want them to know that I love them unconditionally, regardless of their behavior, actions, and feelings.
These four intentional activities are ways we have focused on love in our family. I hope you can use them with your own kids!
Compliment Sticks: When we sit down for dinner, my oldest daughter passes out our “compliment sticks.” These are popsicle sticks with our family members’ names written on them--one per family member. She passes them out randomly and makes sure that we don’t get our own. During dinner, we each take turns giving a compliment to the person whose name we received. This has been a sweet way to teach our kids how to give and receive compliments graciously. For our three year old, it is usually something as simple as, “I like that you played with me today.” This has helped me learn what is important to my kids, and it has made me reflect on what really matters, like playing with them and spending one on one time with each of them.
Gift-Giving: Valentine’s Day is a great time to start this with your kids! I challenged my daughters to make their own Valentine’s cards for their grandparents this year. I gave them construction paper, stickers, and markers and mostly left them alone, except to help them spell and write words. They were very intentional about choosing their grandparents’ favorite colors for their cards. They drew pictures of themselves and wrote that they loved them. Emphasizing the importance of gift-giving will teach children that it can really bring them joy. It will also teach them how to be thoughtful and generous.
Daily Affirmations: You are kind. You are important. You are loved. These are phrases I repeat to my kids every day. One day recently, while my oldest daughter (5 years old) was talking to my youngest daughter (6 months old), I overheard her saying, “You are important. You are loved.” Our kids hear and remember what we repeat to them.
Other examples are: You are such a hard worker. I am proud of you for being so brave. You are a caring sister. You make me feel happy when you _________. You tried so hard! I appreciate you. I’m so glad you are my child.
Pick a few affirmations to repeat to your own kids. If you repeat the same ones so they can memorize the affirmations themselves, they will be able to recall them in times of stress or sadness. The more you say it, the more it will become truth.
Favorite Traits Heart Garland: This is a great way to build up your kids’ confidence. First, we cut out a lot of hearts--all the same size, but different colors. Then, we punched two holes in the top of each heart so we could string twine through them to make a garland. My five year old daughter chose to make it rainbow colors, and it turned out so cute (and perfect for Valentine’s Day)!
After cutting out and stringing the hearts, we sat down together to decide what to write on them. I prompted her with this phrase: “I like that I am ______.” I gave her the example of “creative.” This was hard for her, but I wanted to build her up and help her to feel proud of who she is. She came up with “fun,” “kind,” and “sister” all on her own.
You could make a garland for each family member, and have your kids help you make one for yourself!
On this Valentine’s Day, I hope you use some of these ideas to grow closer to your family. I hope you and your kids feel loved.