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Love: Vital to a Healthy Life

Children need it desperately. Adults long for it. And during February, we celebrate it – love. It has been the inspiration for countless poems, songs and movies, and it is vital to healthy development and well-being.

Showing Love

For a child to learn to love, he or she must be loved. Some of the best ways for parents to show love and affection to their child everyday is by smiling, cuddling, talking softly to, reading to and touching their child tenderly, according to family and youth development specialist Becky White.

“Babies experience love through gentle touches and positive, consistent responses to needs for food and comfort,” White said.

Parents who talk and read to their children help them develop critically needed language skills.

Modeling Love

Parents, whether together or not, serve as relationship role models for children. LSU AgCenter family and youth development specialist Diane Sasser says how parents interact with each other and with friends and family members serves as a foundation for a child’s relationships.

“This will guide them through relationships among their friends, classmates, with their teachers and, eventually, in their own romantic relationships,” Sasser said.

It is important for parents to model healthy, respectful relationships, but parents don’t have to be perfect, Sasser says. In fact, children also can learn from disagreements between parents.

“Arguing is a part of a relationship and sets the example for children on how to negotiate and how to resolve issues,” she said.

Witnessing healthy relationships can benefit a child in other areas of life. Children who are in a secure home environment with good relationship role models are more successful in school. Sasser says the reason is because “these children are not suffering from needless stress and are able to better focus on the task at hand.”

Children who don’t have good examples could develop social problems.

“We could end up with a child who does not know how to socialize, does not know how to get along with others throughout his or her life.”

Being in Love

For parents to be good role models, they need to make their own relationships a priority. Falling in love is often the easy part of a relationship. Keeping that love alive and strong can be difficult.

“Love must be nurtured,” Sasser said.

Research has shown that one of the most important ways a couple can keep intimacy in their relationship is to have time at the end of the day to share with one another.

Couples can use a guide called the “daily temperature reading” as a way to share thoughts, concerns and dreams.

The daily temperature reading consists of five specific areas that partners share with one another.

“It is important to use this exercise with respect and good will toward one another,” Sasser said.

Appreciation: Take turns expressing something that you appreciate about your partner. If you are focusing on things you appreciate, it is harder to take one another for granted.

New information: Share new things that are going on in your life so that you and your partner are both aware of them. This can help prevent misunderstandings or resentment.

Puzzles: Share something that you do not understand about your partner, your relationship or life in general. This is a chance to clarify things so that you are not making assumptions that could become hurtful. It also can be a way to bring fresh ideas into your relationship.

Complain with request for change: If there is a specific thing that your partner does that bothers you, share that with your partner without blaming, accusing or judging.

If this time is used to belittle or attack your partner, it may hurt your relationship rather than help it grow,” Sasser said. “Instead, think of this as an opportunity to help your partner understand your needs.”

Try to hear what your partner is saying from his or her perspective. Compassion or empathy in a relationship is one of the most important ingredients for keeping a relationship strong.

Hopes: Share your hopes and dreams. They can give you both something to work toward together.

Using the daily temperature reading can build intimacy and friendship between partners, Sasser said. This, in turn, helps build trust and strengthen their commitment to one another.

When couples become parents, busy schedules can get in the way of properly nurturing their relationship, but it is important to remember that it is not just one relationship they are working on. They also are teaching their children how to have strong, healthy relationships, which the specialists say is a life-long lesson worth the effort.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 10 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, protecting the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 2/8/2013 3:36:10 PM

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