“What is love Mama?” That is the question that will no doubt spill out of a child’s mouth at some point. But no matter how difficult it may seem, that question should be answered because of common phrases like “I love you” being mentioned daily. Children hear a lot of sayings and affirmations through their young life which I personally believe, need an explanation even if it’s just a simple meaning or concept that is as old as time. Children are intuitive and catch more than you might think. That’s why it’s important to listen and take the time to best discuss these topics with them rather than to assume or leave them to their own understanding.
For myself and my family, I’ve been forced in a way to discuss hard topics. Love being the focus topic this year. As you know, 2020 seems responsible for a new era of anxiety, stress, sadness and even depression. Suicide rates in teens are higher this year then ever before which is a red-flag to us parents to carve the time necessary to aide our children in their thoughts and feelings. We as a family, are navigating this season with weekly talks and check-in’s that include myself and my husband when necessary, to ask how they are doing. Here’s what we learned and how we approach these talks:
Keep things simple. When speaking to kids, simplicity is the foundation. The key is to use words and concrete examples they can understand and to recognize that the child’s model for love is how you treat them… You can emphasize that love is caring as much about someone as you do yourself. An example that we use here at our house is how God loves us so much, he gave us the Bible to read, prayers to ask for things we need and loving parents that God designed specifically to be their caretakers.
Apply a story to accompany the words. As an adult, I’m still very visual. Cue the board books and picture books. Children often relate better to stories or visual explanations. So, when explaining love often times means giving an example. I tend to use my children in scenarios they can remember like when I didn’t want them to eat candy for dinner because if I did, they would get a tummy ache and that’s not what a loving parent would do. Another great example of this tender and gentle teaching comes from the Bible and how God so loved all his people, that he sent Jesus to earth to show us how to Love.
Don’t pretend to know everything. So many times I catch myself saying “I don’t know” and I’m okay with that. Growing up, I always went to my parents with questions and even if they didn’t know the answer, they would give one to me. As a result of this, I put too much emphasis in to another human and eventually, I was let down. I began a long journey of searching for love within others instead of loving myself the way that God loves me. People let people down all the time but only God can never fail you or leave you. I love this idea that his love expands all time giving you enough even when everyone has left you. There are difficult talks we have where I end up saying “I don’t know” through a cracking voice and falling tears but those moments give my children a visual of a human who hurts. I want the biggest take away to be that everyone makes mistakes and no one is exempt from hurting. One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard (and I’m paraphrasing) is that the greatest minds don’t offer answers, rather, they ask more questions. So, allowing your kids to experience love is truly a mystery and a constant as they grow.
Here is what I say with my kids:
Love is when you really care about someone or something, so you try very hard to take care of them and keep them safe, just like how mommy and daddy take care of you and keep you safe.
Photos and video’s by Haylie and Mark Schick
This was our shoot with Doodle Bear for their 25th Anniversary!
See more work we’ve done together on this post here
How do you talk to your kids about Love?