Ask Nicole: Simple Acts of Love PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicole M. Young,   

I loved celebrating Valentine’s Day as a child. My favorite memory is of the Valentine’s “mailbox” that appeared every February. It was a big box that my mom decorated with colorful paper, hearts and lace, with a large slot in the lid. My siblings and I loved “mailing” our cards to each other and trying to guess what was inside the box. Even though we knew it contained cards and candy, the anticipation and curiosity made the Valentine’s celebration — and us — feel special. Before I had kids, I vowed to create a Valentine’s mailbox and holiday rituals that would make my own kids feel that special. However, once I became an exhausted parent, all I could do was cover a shoebox with a few stickers. It was a simple version of my childhood Valentine’s mailbox, but somehow my young children still felt the same anticipation, excitement and joy as they imagined what was inside the box. It was a good reminder that when it comes to love, the simplest acts often have the greatest impact.

This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dear Nicole,

I’ve barely recovered from the holidays, and my kids (7, 11) are already asking what I’m getting them for Valentine’s Day. They would be happy with a bag of candy or a new video game, but I don’t want to give them more stuff. They laughed when I told them Valentine’s Day is about loving people, not things. So now I want to teach my kids that we can show love without giving presents or candy, but I could use some ideas. Can you help me?

-       Jacob


Dear Jacob,

What a great idea! So many holidays feel like a giant commercial for cards, candy, flowers and toys. It’s easy to forget the true purpose of many holidays, like giving thanks, celebrating miracles or showing love. Here are some ideas for simple ways to teach your kids about love on Valentines Day or any day of the year:


Say “I love you” with words, notes, pictures or texts. Parents and children often forget to say these words or say them without genuine feeling. A simple, heartfelt “I love you” is a powerful way to remind each other that you care. If your kids aren’t used to saying these words to you or each other, try turning it into a game or competition to see who can find the most creative or surprising way to leave a loving note, picture or text.


Do an activity together without distractions or interruptions. Take turns picking an activity, starting with one of your kids. Turn off phones, tablets and other devices that create distractions and interrupt your time together. Make an agreement that everyone will participate with enthusiasm, even if it’s not an activity each of you would choose to do on your own. This encourages children to learn how to compromise, take turns and consider other people’s feelings and interests — all of which are simple acts of love.


Have dinner together. Research shows that having regular family dinners has tremendous benefits for children and youth, including better academic performance, higher self-esteem and lower risk of substance abuse and depression. Family meals provide an important opportunity to talk with children about their interests, friends, school and life. Start a conversation about a topic that has nothing to do with homework, chores, family rules or daily routines. Ask questions, listen to what they say and encourage them to ask you questions. This teaches valuable communication and social skills that will help your children in future relationships.


Say what you appreciate about each other. Be specific and sincere. Describe a quality that makes each of them special, such as their sense of humor or creativity. Acknowledge something they’ve done at home to be kind and helpful, like asking how your day was or doing a chore with a cheerful attitude. Set the example of how to express appreciation then encourage them to do the same with you and each other. Over time, expressing appreciation will become a habit.


Final Thoughts: Remember there are many ways to teach children about giving and receiving love on Valentines Day and everyday. The simple acts of love often mean the most and create the happiest family memories.


Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 13 and 16, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. For more information about how Triple P helps parents handle everyday parenting challenges, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or www.youtube.com/triplepsantacruzco. To find a Triple P class or practitioner, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 June 2017 21:10
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