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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

February 15, 2023 - 10:32am --

If I asked the question “where did you learn about what love looks like?” would you have an answer or example that comes to mind?  Love may look different for all of us, but the core value of being loved, and respected starts very early in our lives.  Many children have it modeled for them, so it’s easy to follow the example that is set before them.  Others may not have a close example, but can reach out to their extended family, family community or other caring adults in their lives to see love in action.   Love tends to change through seasons in life, but there are some core traits that are present.  Following are some traits for a strong family example from the University of Delaware. 

Talk with one another—While this seems to be a simple task, really listening to one another without distractions is important.  Set aside time to talk, whether it’s at mealtime, travel time or bedtime, make sure your children feel heard and that they have your full attention.  If you ask questions, try not to use ones that you can answer yes or no to, but encourage them to share details.  The ability to share their thoughts and feelings help them to feel an important part of the family, they are respected and valued.

When there are concerns or problems, it’s not always ours to resolve.  Helping our children explore the options available to them and exploring what the consequences for the decisions is a vital skill for life.  Sometimes writing them down can also assist with the problem-solving process that can advance as they age.

Family ritual and routines are 'fabric' that hold it together

Family rituals and routines are said to be the “fabric that holds a family together”.  These are the things that your family does on a daily or weekly basis.  It could be mealtime, doing chores or tasks together, or celebrating special events.  It could also be time spent talking a walk or your bedtime routines.  If you aren’t sure what your children might look forward to, just ask them.  Reinforcing the routines and giving them boundaries help them to feel loved and secure.  When we spend so much of our time at work or engaged in outside activities, time spent together at home is reassuring to each child. 

While family time is essential, don’t forget that each child need some one-on-one time with each parent, a time when the bond is strengthened and nurtured.  It could be going to the grocery together or engaging in their favorite activity like playing in the park or going to the library.  This can be challenging but plan it in the schedule and do your best to stick with it.  You can both look forward to the time together by making a list of possible activities that you can choose from to enjoy that will be both time and money friendly. 

Look for ways to connect each day with children

Look for regular ways to connect each day with your child.  Research indicates that spending frequent brief amounts of time (as little as 1-2 minutes) involved in child-preferred activities is one of the most powerful things parents can do.  Sing songs, make up stories or just talking sets the foundation while they are young so you can have conversations as they age.

Realize that all families have conflict, and probably handle it differently.  Learn to work through the issues, what is acceptable in your family and what isn’t.  Putting each other down, harassing or being physical is not the way to solve conflict.  Talk about what works when they are young if there’s to be a standard set for the years to come.

Time passes quickly and if we as parents want our children to understand what a loving relationship looks like, it starts in our homes.  As they grow and observe these traits, love of family and friends will become stronger with each experience at each age.  Take time, to invest in your family, your marriage and yourself so they can see what love can look like.


Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or
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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.