4 Ways To Explain Love To Your Children While They’re Young

Love is not an easy concept to explain to a child, but from the moment they are born, we are showing them what it is and how it “works.” From their first slobbery kisses to their “I wuv you” first words, they learn it, too. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. As parents, we cherish those moments and I sometimes wish those first lovely memories would last forever. 

We continue to demonstrate our love in all the things that we do and say. We spend time with our children, take them to school, walk them to the park, and talk about anything, big and small. We pick them up when they fall and care for them when they’re sick. And, every day, we say, “I love you.” It should be the one sentiment and phrase they never doubt. 

As they grow up, they learn that love is not always so easy. It can be hard and messy. Friends can betray them. First loves walk away, and love doesn’t fit into nice little boxes. So, how do you explain love to a child? It’s the topic that theologians, artists, and scholars have been debating forever. I don’t think there’s just one right way. How do you start? 

Start At The Beginning

When asked what love is, you can say, “Love is caring.” For me, the first thing that comes to mind is: “Love is gentle. Love is kind.” It means always wanting what’s best for one another, but it’s a very individual experience. We tell them that we love them, but other people might tell them that, too. It doesn’t always mean the same thing. 

So, love also becomes a matter of how we show it. 

Model Healthy & Loving Relationships

As we connect with our kids, we are showing them the first examples of how to build satisfying, healthy, and happy relationships. But we’re also modeling relationships with every other interaction we have as well. They watch how we act with those we love. Hopefully, we are showing them how to act in generous, tender, and caring ways. 

Our actions demonstrate how to love and be loved. We’re also setting our kids up to expect love and respect from those they love and care about as they get older. It’s a give-and-take relationship built on trust. But healthy and loving relationships are also hard work. It’s about putting others first. It is open, honest, and transparent. 

Love may be vulnerable, but it is also enough. It should be balanced, supportive, and positive. Each person should feel heard and appreciated without being a burden or misunderstood. Love nurtures, effortlessly, with respect and mutual contribution. It connects and fosters intimacy in a series of moments that we will always cherish. Love is also a choice, one we make every day, and it can be hard work. 

Talk About What Love Is NOT

We spend so much time talking with our kids about what love is and what it feels like, we don’t always do a good enough job explaining what love is NOT. Love is not an obsession. It is not consumed with jealousy, hate, and malice. It’s not explosive or destructive. Love is not ownership. 

As love develops, it is not panicked and fearful. It’s not abusive, dishonest, or deceitful. It should not be explosive or irrational. Love should not destroy or undermine. It does not tally wrongs or count up and compare faults, weaknesses, or contributions. It is not bound up with physical gratification, nor is it petty or unkind. It doesn’t have to be showy or bowl you over with the magnanimity of it. 

How To Explain Love Languages 

As you talk about love with your kids, you can also explore the love languages, which were first introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. There are five basic ways that you express and receive love in a relationship. While it’s often important to discuss love languages in age-appropriate ways, here are the basics: 

Acts of Service

A person might feel appreciated and loved when a loved one goes out of their way to do little things to show they care. It could be something as simple as doing the dishes or putting gas in the car. They are simple acts of service that mean a lot.  

Physical Touch

While sex is a topic you’ll explore with your kids at a time that’s age-appropriate, you can still talk about how simple acts like touching their arm, holding hands, or even cuddling up with a loved one can be a love language (of course, be sure to talk to your children about consent when it comes to physical touch – they have the right to refuse a hug, and should respect when others refuse hugs or other touches). 

Quality Time

The very act of spending time together is a love language, but it requires that you be present and focused with undivided attention. It could be something as basic as active listening without offering judgment or unsolicited advice; it could also be an activity that you do together, like an outing to the zoo or even a simple trip to the ice cream store.

Giving/Receiving Gifts

It could be that your love language is about gifts as a symbolic representation of how you feel. It’s not always about the gift itself (although that’s part of it), but it’s also about showing that you care, that you’ve carefully considered your options, and you’ve picked out the gift you think they will love. 

Words of Affirmation

A love “language” really could be about telling words and messages that say, “I love you” in all their many ways and forms. You’re offering affirming compliments, saying “Good job,” and supporting with quotes, encouragements, and notes that are fraught with praise and gratitude. 

While it’s helpful to explore these ideas, you can also take the Love Language Quiz to find out: What’s Your Love Language? As you and your kids learn more about your love languages, you can better connect with each other and share love in the way that means the most to the people you love. Love languages also help us all understand why conflict happens. Could it be that we aren’t’ being sensitive to how our loved one is expressing love? 

Since love is such a personal experience, our children are figuring out their own definitions of love based on what they see from us. They’re feeling it, experiencing it, and trying to navigate their way to answers about love languages and how to build their own happy and healthy relationships. 

While there are numerous ways we could talk about love and what it means, love languages allow you to demonstrate to your children how each of us expresses and receives love differently. When we understand how love is different, we can be more empathetic to our shared experiences and learn to act in more selfless ways. Through communication, we can encourage our kids in their exploration of their own personal growth. 

Our kids and grandkids absolutely deserve to be treated like queens and kings, but they also need to know that they simply can’t accept less than they deserve. 


What are your thoughts on teaching kids about love? Tell us below!

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