Let’s talk about L-O-V-E: encouraging healthy relationships

According to Chaya Kulkarni, Director of Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids, healthy relationships begin at birth. “Engaging with your baby’s signals shows the baby that you care. When he’s hungry he is fed, when he laughs you laugh too, when he cries you answer. These responses express love to your child and show him that he can depend on you to take care of him.”

The expression of love comes in many forms and varies culturally. Love can be shown through words, actions, affection and kindness. “Hugs, kisses and the words ‘I love you’ might work well for some, while for others, actions speak louder than words,” she says. “Ensuring that you spend regular quality time with your children supports and maintains loving and nurturing relationships through childhood and adolescence.”

The early development of healthy parent-child relationships can help children and teens when building their own relationships with siblings, classmates, friends and teachers. It is by modelling behaviours of kindness and consideration that children learn not only how to treat others, but how they should be treated in return.  

“A healthy relationship is one without feelings of pressure or control,” says Dr. Sandra Mendlowitz, Psychologist in the Anxiety Program at SickKids. “Whether it is a friendship or more, you should feel good about yourself when you’re with someone and just as good when you’re not.” The foundation of healthy relationships begins with positive reinforcement and the development of self-esteem.  

This Valentine’s Day, while Cupid flies the skies in search of love remember that his arrow will not just be aimed at those in romantic relationships. Valentine’s Day also serves as a reminder to show loved ones – parents, friends, aunts, brothers or daughters – just how much you care.