"This thing, called love, I just can’t handle it. This thing, called love, I must get round to it. I ain’t ready, crazy little thing called love. Da dum dum dum dum!"
Turn up your favourite love songs, signal the stores to put out heart-shaped everything and have them raise the prices on those red roses – today is Valentine’s Day!
Ah, the holiday celebrating the death of saint Valentine, imprisoned and sentenced to death for performing marriages in secret, before falling in love with the jailer’s daughter, only to die tragically, leaving her all but one letter signed, “Your Valentine”.
Ah, the holiday that’s been commercialised for corporations to feed off our vulnerabilities and insecurities and make us believe that the only way to express our love and the only way we know that we truly are loved is if we receive a bouquet of flowers and a box of assorted chocolates even if it is double the price because it’s got a red ribbon holding it, and our fragile selves together!
But our views aside, it’s important to talk to our kids about love – and even encourage it.
What is love?
When we talk to our kids about love and ask them what they think love is, more often than not we find ourselves describing romantic love. Love that is, by definition, “an intense feeling of deep affection” and “a strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for someone”.
For kids it's been presented in the form of Bugs Bunny, his heart literally beating out of his chest, or the greatest cartoon love story of all time between Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
But love doesn’t necessarily look like that. Love can also be – and it's important to express this to our kids – about caring about someone else and their happiness, because that makes you happy. Love can be what you feel for your parents, your friends, yourself, and even for the things that you enjoy doing, like painting and playing soccer. And surely, something that makes you so happy is worth celebrating.
Why it’s important to celebrate love
While there isn’t much research about love and children, or rather, teaching children about love and why it’s important, there are a significant number of studies on why it’s important to raise our kids to care. Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd, who runs the Making Caring Common Project, explained in a study released by the group that it’s important to teach kids to care so that we also raise them to be moral, respectful and responsible individuals.
The study lists 5 things we can do as parents to encourage our kids to embrace love by making caring for others a priority, helping them manage rejection and other destructive feelings and setting a good example ourselves of how to be caring individuals.
Love in their favourite cartoons
Mickey and Minnie’s love isn’t wrong, per sé, but again, there are other forms of love which our favourite kids’ cartoons are doing an excellent job at in portraying.
Like the love between two sisters in Frozen, which sees Princess Ana brave the cold to bring her sister back home; Moana’s love for her people, as she ventures far and wide to restore peace on the island of Motunui; or even Gru, whose love grows for three little orphan girls and we’re taught what real family, love, loyalty and friendship looks like from his little minions.
Lilo and Stitch also perfectly portray the unconventional family love and tells the tale of a little girl who finds and ends up caring for her pet alien, which, of course, proves to be rather challenging. She also lives alone with her sister who she loves dearly, even though they fight and argue all the time.
But at the end, they always come together because they all believe in one thing: “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”
And if that isn’t the perfect definition of love, we don’t know what is.
- Also read: 'You see this? It's called wonderful': How one Momo got all kinds of love after her son rallied his Tweeps
So yes, there is the romantic kind of love, but there are also so many other definitions of love and caring. And they’re the ones we should encourage our kids to believe in now and to celebrate, even if they do choose to do so with cheesy cards and heart-shaped chocolates.
So the next time they ask what love is and find yourself lost for words, how about these examples or this video having kids explain what love is:
“Love is something everyone has but they still have to find.”
Love is: “Caring for someone with your whole heart”, “magic flowers” and “butterflies”.
“Love is happiness.”
How do you explain what love is to your kids? Tell us by commenting below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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