Showing ‘I love you’ as a family

Hands with fingers spelling LOVE

Saying “I love you” is not nearly as meaningful if our actions don’t match our words. Showing love takes effort and intention. Combined, words and actions have a powerful effect.

Here are some suggestions for families on showing love all year round:

1. Disconnect from technology. Connect with each other. One way of doing this is to deposit your Blackberry, Ipod, DS and any other distracting electronic device in a bowl at your front door. Retrieve when you leave to go out again. Resist the urge to check emails and texts throughout the day, especially while in the company of others. Encourage family members to avoid screens of any sort for specific periods of the day. Giving your undivided attention to the people you love is worth more than money can buy.

2. Do the unexpected. Prepare a snack, make someone you love a cup of tea or breakfast in bed when they least expect it. Clear the dishes in the sink and put a load of laundry in the washer without being asked. Offer to drive your child or partner when he or she is anticipating taking the bus. Don’t wait for an occasion such as Valentine’s Day or a birthday to plan a special event or reserve a table at your favourite restaurant. Include a special “thinking of you” note in a lunch box. Sprinkle rose petals on your bed.

3. Make someone else happy. On occasion, going to see a movie of his choice, even though it’s last on your list, says “I love you.” The same is true for listening to rock music, when you’d rather listen to jazz, for example. Hopefully, this show of love will be reciprocated on another occasion.

4. Schedule family time. As opposed to having each family member off in his or her own corner of the house, doing his or her own thing all the time. Making time to sit together as a family over several meals during the week, taking time to play a board game or even watch a favourite television show together, creates a feeling of connectedness. Even though most children would never admit to it, they enjoy the feeling that coming together as family evokes. It’s these times that they will remember fondly when they are on their own.

5. Be playful. When life gets too serious, play hide and seek, wrestle on the floor or skip down the street, arms linked. We’re never too old to let our hair down and to get back in touch with our child like selves. The times that I’ve gotten into play fighting and tickling matches with my kids are some of my most treasured moments – and it doesn’t have to stop, even between adults.

6. Say hello and goodbye. Its easy, as you rush out the door in the morning to forget to say goodbye. Try to remember. Saying goodbye and offering good wishes for a great day ahead says that you care. When you come back home, take time to connect with your family members. Catch up on the news of the day. If you’re occupied when someone arrives home after some time away, finish what you are doing quickly or stop to enquire how that person is doing. These points of connection are vital.

7. Take care of one another. Massage aching feet, offer a hot water bottle or a blanket when someone you love is cold, run a bath with bubbles and make sure that you family eats nourishing food. These are some of the caring ways to say “I love you.”

8. Set clear limits for your children. Even though your children will say that they hate having a curfew and resent having to live by your rules, they inwardly know that the rules you have set are because you care. Asking them to return home at a reasonable time and to live with certain restrictions is your way of saying that you care enough to set clear, loving limits and that you love them enough to make sure that your rules are adhered to.

9. Work as a team. When each family member knows that they have a role to play at making sure that projects get completed, that routine runs smoothly at home, he or she feels an integral part of a family unit. When you sit down as a family to discuss an upcoming family vacation or a difficulty that the family is facing, and then ask for everyone’s input, you are showing that you love them enough to include them in your discussion and that you value their input.

10. Say “I love you” with conviction. Anyone can say “I love you” but said too often or recited as part of a perfunctory goodbye ritual, these words can sound empty. Instead, cup your partner’s face in your hands, look into his or her eyes and say “I love you” with expression and emotion. Hug your children tight (if they’ll let you) and whisper “I love you.” Said at the right time and not over used, these words, combined with acts of caring, will convey their intended special message.