Teaching Kids About Love Isn't Always Easy

Jenny Erikson Love & Learn

One of the most important things to me when my husband and I split up was making sure the kids knew they were loved. It’s still my number one parenting priority -- more important than organic kale smoothies or pressed clothes or beds that get made daily. If they get one thing out of their childhood, I want it to be that they know they were and are unconditionally loved.

One of my daughters has a tendency toward anxiousness. She is tentative and deliberate in her actions and ruminates around in her brain far more than the average kiddo. I see the wheels turning in her head and hear the pointed questions she asks without realizing that she’s giving away her inner fears.

I spent a long time in a bad marriage because I believed at the time that it was the best option for the children. It’s what all the studies say, right? Kids whose parents aren’t together grow up to be crack whores so nasty Charlie Sheen won’t even do them. Or something.

Anyway, our intact family bit the dust, and now it’s time to make the best of it. I’ve read the books and talked to the therapists, and know that sometimes children of divorce feel a little lost in their place in the world. Not only do they now shuttle back and forth between two homes, but also that solid foundation, the knowledge of unbreakable love, has been cracked.

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Kids love their parents whole-heartedly, and parents (the non-psychotic ones at least) love them back just as unconditionally. Children assume that this is the same love that parents feel for each other, so when mom and dad decide to get a divorce, they will naturally worry that their parents may fall out of love with them too.

Which is why teaching kids about love is so important, especially different kinds of love. The love their father and I felt for each other is very different than the love we each feel for them. Romantic love and parental love are two very distinct animals, and it’s nearly impossible to fall out of love with your children.

Romantic love must be constantly kindled to be kept alive, but parental love runs bone deep, imprinted on our souls and in our DNA. Romantic love can be extinguished -- either quickly or by slow erosion -- but the flame of parental love will always flicker.

I want my kids to know that they are loved completely and thoroughly, not because they’re good enough or because they earned it in any way, but just because they exist. And in that knowledge, I hope that as they grow, they come to understand that romantic love is a treasured gift to be shared with someone that loves them back -- just the way they are.

Do you tell your kids you love them every day?


Image via Camdiluv/Flickr

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divorce, love, family