Culturally, Valentine’s Day is often correlated with the celebration of love between partners, but can it also be a celebration of more than romantic love?

As a day of love, Valentine’s Day does not need to be solely restricted to the rekindling of love between couples. In the case of families, it can be a good opportunity to emphasize the aspects of a loving relationship with our children.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Buckley, an actress, speaker, author and comedian. Kathy is an exceptional human being who has overcome various struggles and now inspires others to overcome adversities. In our conversation, Kathy talked about her challenging childhood, and through it, emphasized various key points on what she or any child would have needed.

Kathy was born RH negative and, as a toddler, had spinal meningitis. She subsequently lost her hearing. However, her family mistook her communication challenges for her being ‘slow’. It was only until Kathy was in second grade that she was diagnosed with hearing loss. In the interview, she discussed various instances during her childhood that helped her grow as an individual and cope with her communication challenges.

Based on her story, here are some of the key points that highlight the important ways in which we can show children love, on Valentine’s Day or every other day of their journey to becoming adults:

  1. Listen to children
    Children have a lot to say, sometimes through their words, and most of the time through their behaviour and actions. When Kathy was a child, her communication challenges were misdiagnosed; the help she needed to get was delayed, but that does not need to be the case for every child. Listening to children, observing them and hearing them are important acts of love.

  2. Be in the moment with them
    Too much of kids’ childhood today is centred around preparation for the future. They could do with some quality time and spontaneous fun. Parents, especially, can show children love by not trying to control them all the time and embracing a spirit of all-round growth. Teachers can indulge in allowing humour as they go about their lessons. Children and adults learn more when they work with humour.

  3. Give children attention; build a connection
    Kathy was sent to a school for ‘slow learners’ and then to public school. She saw kids with disabilities and learned about various sorts of differences between children. However, she realized that all kids, regardless of their differences, need attention, connection and recognition. These forms of love are essential for every human being.

  4. Care and acknowledgement
    The words we use with our children affect their development; what we tell them is who they become. So, we can help them feel loved by using caring words and acknowledging their feelings.

  5. Be humane
    The weight of our expectations can burden children.
    Whether it is from teachers or parents, understanding that our children human and treating them as such can go a long way in helping children to feel unconditionally loved.

  6. Smile more
    Children are keen readers of facial expressions and body language. They know when we are upset with them and when we are happy. Both teachers and parents can make children feel cared for by at least smiling at them more often or even looking directly at their face when talking.

  7. Recognize their struggles
    When we treat children like they do not know much or like their issues are irrelevant, we belittle their struggles and undermine the stress they are facing. For children to be happier and mentally healthy, we need to recognise and acknowledge their issues before lecturing them on what they need to do.

  8. Accept them
    Children, especially teenagers, struggle with finding their identity. We need to be accepting and understanding instead of imposing. Children can be confused about who they want to be or what they want to do. We just need to give them the room to grow and find out and the acceptance and support to flourish.
  9. Be patient and personal
    Kathy says that teachers are like gardeners who plant seeds. They may water them and nurture their growth, but ultimately, children will blossom when they are ready. I believe the same applies to parents. By being patient with them and sharing our personal experiences we can help build a connection and help relieve the stress they feel.

  10. Make them feel safe
    Are we doing enough to help children feel safe? To feel loved is to feel safe. Whether in classrooms, homes or the outside world, we need to make sure that children have their safe spaces where they do not feel pressured or scared. As parents and teachers, we can do that not judging children all the time and comforting before lecturing. Children should be able to ask us for help and be open to receiving it.

  11. Compliment and praise children
    Positive reinforcement goes a long way in aiding better mental health and supporting children. Giving children compliments and praising their efforts is a great way to show love. It also helps them develop their strengths and follow their interests.

  12. Treat them with respect and honour
    How we treat our children will determine how they treat themselves. So, if we want them to love themselves, we need to show them love as well. Most importantly, we should treat them with respect and honour before demanding it from them.

    “You want every child to love, honour and respect themselves because when they do, they will love honour and respect everybody else.” – Kathy Buckley

  13. Teach self-esteem and confidence
    Teaching children about self-esteem and confidence is important. They need to learn that their value is not determined by external outcomes and therefore is uncompromised by what other people think. Teaching your children to love themselves is essential in helping them feel loved.
  14. Make them feel significant
    How we treat children influences their belief system. To make them feel like they are worthy and capable, we need to treat them as such. By helping them feel significant in our lives, we also help them feel loved.

Valentine’s Day can be as much about fostering love as it is about showing it. A simple ‘I love you’ to your children and spouse can go a long way. But remember, it takes more time to make people feel loved than it does it to simply say it. Kathy believes that these basic devices are needed for the development of children. I believe that they are also important in showing them that they are loved. Do you?