It's Time for a Love Revolution
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Following on from my tweet about the life expectancy of a care leaver I have been thinking about how we can ‘love’ our kids in care onto greater things. At the #SIRCC2019 conference there was much discussion about the word ‘Love’, and in some cases people were talking about the fear of using the word love because of what it may infer. Some people have a sexual association with the word love and as such keep the verbalisation of the ‘L’ word for their nearest and dearest. This makes me sad.
Professor Jim Anglin from the University of Victoria, Canada, spoke at the #SIRCC2019 conference and he reminded us that the ancient Greeks had many words for love, the top 4 being;
Agápe – meaning love: esp. charity; the love of God for man and of man for a good God
Éros – meaning love, mostly of the sexual passion
Philia – meaning affectionate regard, friendship, usually between equals
Storge – meaning love, affection and especially of parents and children
So, from a Greek viewpoint ‘love’ is so much more than a four-letter word, literally.
From this I remembered a book that was recommended to my now wife and I to read before we got married, this was The Five Love Languages. This book talks about how people communicates love differently and how they also like love to be communicated to them. The five love languages are; Words of Affirmation, Touch, Gifts, Quality time & Acts of Service.
I do understand the fear that professionals have when it comes to telling a child that they work with that they love them, they are potentially opening themselves up to a whole raft of problems, but if we take the word ‘Love’ out of the equation for a moment, could we show our love in other ways so that our children and young people know without any doubt that they are loved, setting them on the right path to life-long positive outcomes.
There is much research about the positive impacts of a parents love for their child and, in particular, heightened self-esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behaviour problems. On the flip side children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower self-esteem and feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and antisocial.
If we know this about positive child development, why is it then so hard for the powers that be to allow the same love and affection to be shown to the children and young people we care for. They are after all the corporate ‘Parent’ of the children.
If there is really such a taboo around the word ‘Love’ why don’t try using other ways such as the five love languages I referred to earlier to show you care and love for your children and young people?
Here is a bit of food for thought about the five love languages and how I think they could work for the children and young people we care for.
Words of Affirmation – Speak positively into your children and young people’s lives, this will help them to overcome negative thoughts about themselves and others and in time they will come to believe of themselves what you and others are saying about them.
Touch – This may be the most uncomfortable for people, but let’s be honest, a hug is just a hug. I know that many of you will be sitting thinking about that young person that has been abused and has issues about being touched but in cases like this it is OK to start small and work up to a hug. We have a duty to teach young people about appropriate and safe touching, it’s not always sexual.
Gifts – This again might be a bit uncomfortable for some people, but it does not have to be, and it most certainly does not have to cost. Things like picking up a silly wee token and giving it to a child saying things like ‘I saw this and thought of you’ not only shows that you know them well, but it also shows that you think about them outside of work and that they are not just a job to you.
Quality Time – I love this one, some of my best memories of my own care home were chilling on the sofa having stupid conversations and watching rubbish on TV of a Saturday night, take-away food a must. The most important thing of that evening was the time spent making memories, memories that I still hold to this day.
Acts of Service – I’m going to draw on personal experience of my time in care again for this one. From the age of 16 I worked and from 17 I worked fulltime as a receptionist in a hotel, running shifts between 7am till 11pm. Sometimes I would have to work a late shift onto an early, this meant I would come in when night shift staff were on and I would be leaving before the day shift started. On these nights I would come in and the first thing that happened as I walked through the door was, I was handed a cup of tea and some toast, my uniform was then taken from me and washed, dried and pressed for the next day and in the morning I would come down stairs to my breakfast on the table to set me up for my next shift, and the most lovely part of this whole act of service was that there was always fresh cut flowers from the garden on the table and most importantly a smile on Kirsten’s face which told me, she does this not as part of her job but because she knows that I work long shifts, she cares for me and wants to make my off shift time as enjoyable as she could. To this day I still talk about Kirsten and her crazy Swedish ways.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that you don’t have to say ‘I Love You’ to show that you care. There is far more effective ways to show your love for the people you care for, but I do hope that one day we can tell our children and young people we care for that we love them.
I will leave you with one final thought; In 2008 the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People produced a report called Sweet 16 – The age of Leaving Care. In this report care experienced people directly called to be loved and the word love features no less than 6 times in the publication.
“- that we nurture these young people, support and protect them; even, in the young people’s words, love them, until they are ready and able to move on to independent living.” (Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People , 2008)
That report has since had a review and is now 11 years old, but sadly we are still having the same conversations. Let’s stop talking and start showing some action.
In the words of a good friend of mine
‘it’s time to stop faffing’
Until that day comes, I Philia You.