“No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hand of the person they love.” -President Barack Obama
That is a beautiful thought. Isn’t it? Thankfully, the last decade has seen great progress toward acceptance of diversity in relationships, but kids are still exposed to judgmental attitudes and discrimination. They see demonstrations of hatred and violence in their schools and communities from those unwilling to embrace all people regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. But we have the power in our homes to overcome our culture’s negative influence. Our families are the building blocks for teaching respect and equality regardless of societal influence. In (famous) other words, “Love is all you need.” We have the privilege of raising a generation that will, hopefully, authentically show each other that love is love. Raising kind and empathetic kids takes some reflection, strategy, and effort. There are plenty of resources out there on the interwebs that put the how-to of teaching these important character traits right at your fingertips. Before you go searching, read on for some fantastic (if I do say so myself) ideas to get you started.
Have a brainstorming session
Bust out a paper and pen and get your collective family brains going. Do a word association of what comes to mind when you talk about the words “family” and “love.” If you want to get really fancy you could try a Venn diagram. As you share thoughts like connection, laughter, hugs, smiles, and others that come to mind with family and love, you’ll see that they share many words. Perfect! Right? What we’re trying to get across to our kids is that families love each other. This will also illustrate that there is no right way to love or to be a family. Now that your kids have a clear idea about what makes a lovey-dovey happy family, take things one step further to make a list of people they (and you) love. Talk about how the people you love can be friends, family, neighbors, teachers, anyone! All these people are different genders, races, and ages of course. Still, you love them all. Talk about how you show your mom your love differently than how you show a teacher your love, but, it’s love all the same. Now, bring your love and family lists back into the picture. Bring it all together. Bring your point home that it’s okay to love and be a family with anyone who makes your heart happy. People are people. Family is family. Love is love. There. See? That’s not too hard, is it? So, when your child asks why she has two moms and her friend has a mom and dad or why his friend’s parents are different races, you will be prepared! It’s an essential discussion to have. Go forth imparting wisdom with courage!
Learn about love
Regardless of your religious beliefs 1st Corinthians gives a pretty straightforward narrative about how to truly love someone. Here are the highlights if you need a refresher.“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”Can’t argue with that I don’t think. Read these verses to your kids or have them read to you. These words are a good reminder when we are bombarded with media influence of what love “should” look like. If you have younger kids you might want to introduce the love is love concept with simpler, fewer words. There are some (not enough) books out there to bring the family diversity topic to little readers. These are some of my faves.
When you’re done here definitely go look into those and similar books. Alright. So your family talked about love and learned about love. Now get creative and have some fun with it!
Create with love
If the mention of arts and crafts sends you hiding under your desk, don’t worry. This is simple. Make a collage! Go through magazines, google images or family pictures and find the ones that reflect- say it with me now- “LOVE!” They can be pictures of families, couples, friends, even cuddly puppies. Anything that gives warm, fuzzy feelings of joy and gratitude, put it on there. While you’re creating, crank up the songs you love. In fact, check out this love-ly playlist to really carry out the theme, and don’t be afraid to belt ‘em out while you make your project! There you go! The topic of who, why and how we love need not be an intimidating one. Equipped with these suggestions in your “rock this parenting thing” mental folder you’re all set to share the love. So, go get to it!