How to Explain Love
Let Children Learn through Experience
Teach your child about love through experience, stories, serving others, talking with other children and emotional awareness.
Little ones are famous for asking big questions about why the sky is blue, why air is see-through or even what love is. Most children experience love daily, yet they simply have not drawn the connection between their experiences and the word "love." It can be confusing to understand why love looks different in different situations and relationships. Explain love to your child through multiple experiences and conversations to help her understand a broad concept that even adults struggle to fully grasp.
Before you explain love to your child, make sure you have a grasp on the difference between emotional hunger verses love. Emotional hunger is about trying to get your own emotional needs met through interacting with another person. Love is about caring for another selflessly, without focusing on your own needs. When you understand this distinction, it is easier to explain love without confusing your child.
Mirror Your Child's Expressions of Love
When your child does something loving like petting a cat, making you a card, surprising you with breakfast in bed or giving daddy a big hug when he comes home from work, compliment your child and tell her that those are examples of what love can look and feel like. Show her what love looks like by mirroring her behaviors of things like eye contact, loving words, one-on-one time, lending a helping hand, hugs and handmade gifts.
There are many different kinds of expressions and types of love. Tell your child stories about how you met your spouse and knew you were in love. Give examples about how a parent or grandparent loved you well as a child. Talk about your favorite elementary school teacher and how you knew she loved and cared about you. If your faith tradition or worldview has traditional stories about love, share those as examples to follow. Show your child a video about someone who volunteers to help children who are homeless or in need. Let your child see how love looks in different circumstances.
Plan experiences that allow your child to experience the selflessness of love in new ways. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, bring hygiene bags to a homeless shelter, visit with people in a nursing home or sponsor a family in need at Christmas and buy presents for them. Invite people who have nowhere to go on a holiday to join your family. Pass out free bottled water downtown on a hot summer day. After you serve others today, talk with your child about the experience and how they felt as they made a difference to others.
Plan a Love Day
When your child asks you to explain love, plan a "love day" in which you express love in as many ways as you possibly can and label it as love for your child. Show him what it looks like to be patient, kind, selfless, forgiving, graceful and to have a heart to serve. Help him clean up his room, give him a hug just because, look into his eyes and smile, tell him that he makes you smile and give him a meaningful gift. Each time, smile and say, "That's love." Before the day is over and your child begins to understand, he is likely to join in the fun and think of his own ways of expressing love to you in return.
Include Other Children
Sometimes children are the best teachers. They seem to understand each other in ways that adults do not. Show your child a video of other children explaining what love is. Ask her siblings to explain what love means to them. At the next playgroup, ask all the children what love means and see what they say. You might be surprised at the simple wisdom and joy of their answers that help not only your child, but also you.
Teach About Emotions
Love is both a choice and an emotion. One way to better understand love is to become more aware of all emotions. Hang an emotions poster on the wall and check in with your child a few times a day to ask which drawing expresses how they feel. When you are feeling loving, take a moment and point out your emotions on the chart so that your child can see. Over time, your child will not only understand love better, but also the full spectrum of human emotion.
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