Monthly Archives: June 2011

Teaching Our Children About Love

Children establish their first feeling of belonging from their family unit. The family relationships, which provide the experiences of loving and being loved, establish roots for our children. The warmth, love and security found in the early formation of these close relationships help build our children’s sense of security for life. The children grow up feeling secure in the belief that others will be there for them, not only for companionship and enjoyment, but also when difficult times occur. These feelings of belonging give children the personal strength to take the necessary risks, trusting that the world is a safe place. Much like the long expansive roots providing stability for a tall tree, this sense of belonging will stretch over the course of childhood to include the neighborhood, school, extended family, religious and ethnic group, providing emotional stability.

To truly belong, children must feel needed and depended upon in their family. As is documented in the November 2, 2007 Grand Rounds at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Industrial Revolution has changed the way we parent our children.

Previously, parents needed children to contribute to the household in order for the family unit to survive. Children had to help stock shelves, feed the cattle, care for other family members. In the modern day family, the parents are needed – to drive carpool to school, scout, ballet, and soccer, to make daily meals, and plan the family vacations. The children are passive recipients of all these services rather than being a part of the process of making these things happen.

In today’s society children are separated both emotionally and physically from the parents. Children learn to love their parents, but they do not have the benefit of working alongside them. It is the process of working together that successfully instills values and learning. As parents work miles from the home and come home distracted and exhausted, children all too often receive academic support for their studies from tutors rather than from sitting elbow to elbow with parents at the kitchen table. Children spend their spare time at home on Face Book, texting, and watching television rather than spending time alongside the parents repairing broken items, building things for the home, or taking care of the garden, animals or home. From this separation from parents, children are not learning about true intimacy, for intimacy requires true give and take – not just take.

Without the early experiences of intimacy, our children grow up unable to sustain close and lasting relationships because they fail to learn the give and take of close relationships. This loss of intimacy can result not only from being chronic passive recipients in life, but may be exacerbated by a parental separation or divorce, too many moves, or the loss of close ones. Children are then unprepared for the challenges of marriage and may not be prepared to invest in a truly intimate relationship.

Comfort, luxury and indulgence can all too often rob our children of the ability to learn how to develop emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a key to personal happiness and success. With this knowledge in mind, we can provide the balance to our children of benefiting from growing up in a post-industrial era in which the daily workload from chores is lessened with the awareness that personal wealth and means will never substitute for good old fashioned parent-child interaction.

Article first published as Teaching Our Children About Love on Technorati.

Eileen Lenson