Valentine’s Day has come and gone — yet, love lingers.

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is a time to send cards, give gifts of candy and flowers, and proclaim our love to those we care about. It’s a lovely day and too bad we have to wait a year for it to roll around again. Not that we have to be perpetually giving gifts — but wouldn’t it be nice to let those we love hear it proclaimed more often, especially by our kids?

To hear the words, “I love you,” as often as possible, can make a profound difference in the life of a child. In addition to the words being spoken, our actions need to back up their meaning.

During the seclusion of the pandemic, it’s sometimes hard to always have our words and actions proclaiming love. As hard as it is, it’s still the number one thing we can do to assure the success of our kids.  

I’m taking a class that’s teaching how to use stories to share insights. Our first assignment was to record and post our earliest memory in two minutes or less. Even though some had difficulty coming up with a memory, each eventually had something to share. As I listened, I was impressed with how profound their answers were — profound in what was revealed.

Many of the stories were quite simple, with memories of seemingly unimportant events; like the woman who talked of being gently rocked by her grandmother, cuddled into her bosom as she quietly hummed. The speaker said that to this day, whenever life isn’t going well, she thinks of her grandmother and being rocked. She recognizes it as having been loved.

Others had stories of being shunned because they were different, or the torment that happened from punishments given out. There were also family vacations and the joy that came from being allowed to be free and creative.

Some stories went back to World War II while others were much more recent.

The stories gave me a new impetus to why I do what I do: help parents recognize the importance of their role in the lives of a child. To help them recognize the best thing they can give their children is love, every day of the year.

I’m not talking about permissiveness or a lifestyle that is undisciplined. Or a love disguised by extreme harshness because “that’s what’s good for them.” I’m talking about a love that guides, protects, teaches, and nurtures.

If we can all remember that everything we do teaches, good and bad, our children (and grandchildren) will benefit. Hopefully, that knowledge will motivate and move us all towards finding the best way to teach what we want to pass on and avoid making mistakes that will imprint on long-lasting memories.

Whether that happens often depends on how much we know about how children develop, what impacts them and how we interact with each one. The stories I heard demonstrated that dramatically. Those who had happy memories appear happy as adults, those who had less than happy memories were recognizing how those early times affected them in later years.

I believe all who raise children want to do it in the very best way. Unfortunately, we may not always know how to do that. Initially, we learn to be parents from how we were parented, accepting it as positive or rejecting it and looking for a better way. The best way to know what to do is to avail ourselves of new skills and knowledge, practice and put to use those skills and knowledge, examine how it’s going, change what’s needed, and strive to do better.

We all will make mistakes, however, as I share in my book, “Raising Kids with Love, Honor and Respect,” if you keep those three principles in mind in everything you do, you won’t be far off from parenting well.

Since this is a class on becoming better storytellers, the instructor shared a quote that came from the Dalai Lama. It said, “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and love of all kinds.”

Take a few minutes to think back to your earliest memories and create your own story. What comes to mind? Were these happy remembrances or ones you’d like to forget? Are you repeating good practices or not so good? What do you want to continue or change? This is an exercise I think you will find valuable as you search for the best way to interact and guide your children or grandchildren; the best way to make sure they always feel loved. Hopefully, it will also be fun.