As Valentine’s Day approaches, this is a great opportunity to talk to kids about love and different types of relationships in the world and in their lives. Initially talking to kids about love can be difficult because it’s an abstract concept, but it can also be quite fruitful and inspiring. Many kids will be getting ready to give out valentines at school, which can bring up complicated feelings, so talking about different ways to love can be helpful. To start out, ask kids what they think love is, and then talk about their ideas as well as caring about people, helping others, listening, and showing signs of affection.
Talking about showing signs of affection and helping others easily lends itself to a conversation about consent and respect for bodies, as described in this previous blog. You can build on that by talking about different types of love. Explaining the love of friends as caring for people they like to spend time with and talk to, sitting with friends and maybe giving them a hug when they are sad, and playing with toys or games together are all ways to show love to friends.
Showing love to family can be more a complicated conversation, depending on the familial configurations in children’s lives. Talking about the love and care grownups have for children can include conversations about helping, teaching, feeding, taking care of injuries, keeping safe, and snuggling together. This is also a good place to talk about how different kids have different grownups in their lives that care about them including parents, grandparents, other caregivers, extended relatives, friends or chosen family of their parents, teachers, and grownups in their faith community. Using broad examples for grownups who care about kids can help remind children who have fewer adult supports in their lives that their church family also loves them.
After these more concrete examples, you can talk about the love that people have for others they don’t know very well, if at all. This is pretty abstract for kids, but you can talk about it as a desire for everyone to have what they need or to be taken care of, lending itself to conversations about justice concerns like homelessness, hunger, poverty, and bullying. It can also help kids understand why a congregation might have a food pantry or clothing closet or why it’s important to stick up against bullies and include kids who might be left out or bullied.
Finally, talking about God’s love as a love so big that it encompasses all the others helps connect for kids that when they show love to others, or receive it from others, they are also sharing and experiencing God’s love. God’s love can be a big and abstract topic, so talking about the more concrete examples first helps. Then, expanding on that to describe how God’s love is unconditional, or never goes away, can help guide into the more abstract concepts. Explaining that no matter how well or how badly a kid behaves, God will always love them, can help kids to know that they are loved, even, and especially, when they don’t experience that love as much in their home.