Love By Any Other Name
February is a month devoted to celebrating love: love between couples, love among people, love shared from one person to another but the distinction between the different types of love is just as important. In early education, we seek to find learning opportunities in everything we do. We try to locate, acknowledge, and teach children about things when the opportunity arises. Monthly or annual celebrations are no different.
Valentine’s Day can be taken as an opportunity to introduce children to the concept of expressing their feelings for someone they care about, but it does not necessarily have to be in a romantic sense. Bonds of love can extend to immediate family, friends, family associates, or people who spend quality time with children. It can be expressed verbally by showing appreciation for one another: “I love spending time with you.” It can be expressed physically such as encouraging pats on the shoulder and high-fives or through non-verbal communication such as body language or celebratory clapping. These actions signal to the other person that they are being appreciated; that they have done the right thing and such encouragement is likely to see that behaviour repeated.
Belonging stands as the third and final pillar within the Early Years Learning Framework and love in its varying forms plays an integral part of helping a child reach their intended learning outcomes. Knowing that a child is loved and appreciated helps them develop a strong sense of identity. The same can be seen between children and their peers who can help others form their identity through expressed affection. Bonds such as those made by the love found in friendship help bolster a child’s emotional wellbeing, forming supportive friendship groups that can contribute toward creating effective communicators. Therefore, understanding the importance of recognising and encouraging love in its varying forms is an important lesson in itself.
With these thoughts in mind, the greater lesson to be learned from Valentine’s Day is love does not have to be limited to romance but extends to friendship, support, and other forms as well. In addition, these should not be restricted to only one day a year. Instead, love between friends and love within the family should be promoted by expressing it often when it is warranted. As Nat King Cole once sang, “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”.
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