Valentine’s Day in the UK has always been about couples rather than an all-age love fest like it is in the US. I think that’s kind of a shame really because it’s a great opportunity to talk to our kids about what love really is. (If you want a super-easy craft for ages 2-10s to do while you chat, by the way, I’m featuring one over on my other blog).
I always tell my daughter that love is doing the right thing by a person to the best of your ability, knowledge and strength. My Mum always used to say to me that the gooey feelings in your tummy were only a symptom. Love was an action and a decision. In fact, the way she talked about these concepts and then got on and lived them out in front of us was one of the many gifts she gave us as children. After all, as I argued over at Families First last year, isn’t it as important to know how to love in the real world as how to rewire a plug?
One way we can model this to our children in a practical way is by paying attention to what makes them feel loved. Have you ever heard of the analogy of a love bucket? Some actions and experiences will make the child’s ‘love bucket’ fill up and some will make it leak or even tip it over. I’ve also heard it referred to as a bank account but a bucket is easier to explain to a child.
Recently I looked for a time when Pigwig was feeling relaxed and we chatted about what made her feel loved. I talked to her about the five main love languages to give her an idea – the various ‘languages’ of service, time together, physical touch, gifts and encouraging words. I’m sure you’ll be familiar at least with this concept from the eponymous book by Gary Chapman. Do you know what your main languages are for receiving love?
Anyway, it was quite illuminating for me (and I snuck away and wrote it down for reference!). Hugs were high up there and going to cafes with Daddy. I was surprised that gifts were not that big a deal to her as an expression of love because she is quite attached to her ‘stuff’ but making something for her or fixing a broken toy or posession came high. And top of her list? Reading aloud. I knew she enjoyed that but have pushed that to the top of my priority list since knowing that.
With younger children you may need to guess a bit more, perhaps in discussion with your co-parent but, in either case, making something visual to remind yourself of what fills your child’s love bucket could be a really meaningful activity at this time of year. Putting it somewhere where your child can see it and knows you are remembering their needs would be even more encouraging. You could even get your children to guess what makes you feel loved. Have fun with the concept.