By Jessica Vician
Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Ask a 5-year-old and he or she might tell you it's a day that your friends give you cards and candy at school. A 12-year-old might hope to receive a special note from a crush. A single 20-something might see it as a day to avoid altogether, while a couple who has been together for many years might order pizza and snuggle under a blanket while watching a favorite TV show.
This year, I'd like to recommend taking a moment to think about how you can teach your child to share their love with the world. We all need more love and joy in our lives and who better to show it than a child? In celebration of the 14th of February, here are 14 ways your child can share their love with you, a friend, or even a kind stranger.
Being on the receiving end of an unexpected smile can change someone's day, especially if that smile is from a child.
- Say, "thank you."
Teach your child to express gratitude by saying, "thank you" when someone does something nice for him or her.
- Hold the door.
Holding the door for a stranger is a small gesture that makes us appreciate the kindness of others. This is an especially good tip for teens.
- Pay a compliment.
Encourage your child to compliment someone at least once a week. From "nice coat" to someone in another grade to "great throw" at football practice, a little compliment goes a long way.
Everyone needs a hug. Ask your child to hug a close friend or family member to express their love and gratitude.
- Give together.
Let your child pick out a birthday present for a family or friend so that he or she can take pride in the gift and learn how good it feels to give. It will encourage your child to give often as he or she grows up.
- Perform random acts of kindness.
From holding that door open to picking up a stranger's dropped glove and returning it, small and random acts of kindness make others happy.
- Pay it forward.
The next time someone does something nice for your child, encourage him or her to take some of that good feeling and give it to someone else. Did your child find a dollar on the sidewalk? Encourage him or her to give 50 cents to a person in need, or to buy a friend's soda the next time they're out.
- Beam with pride.
Take a walk around the neighborhood and point out the great things your community is doing. When you take pride in where you live, you create a positive environment around you. Your child will feel this, too, once you've shown him or her the work that goes into the community.
- Give positive feedback.
When your child is kind to others, point out the positive behavior and reward it.
- Tell a joke. Then repeat it.
Tell your child a joke that's easy to remember and age-appropriate. Then ask him or her to tell other people, since laughing makes everyone happy.
- Leave a note.
Ask your child to write a note to someone he or she appreciates. It can be a "thank you" note to a teacher, an "I miss you" note to a family member who lives far away, or even an "I love you" note to mom or dad.
Plant a tree, a bush, or flowers nearby. Planting a living green is like saying, "I love you" to the Earth.
- Say, "I love you."
Speaking of "I love you," say it to your child and to those around you who you love, and encourage your child to do the same. It's that simple.