Valentine’s Day is a special time of year, not just for couples and loved ones, but for families with children too. Valentine’s Day offers an excellent teaching moment for parents to share with their kids the importance of being loving, kind people, and to teach them how to be caring to others.

The best way to teach your children kindness and compassion is by demonstrating it yourself. According to Psychology Today, your children’s ability to care about others must be nurtured by you in their early years and woven into the very fabric of your family’s life. The wonderful thing about compassion is that there are so many conduits through which you can communicate its messages that can impact your children. When you immerse your children in a sea of messages of compassion, they are all but assured of getting the messages loud and clear. Here are some of the best ways to show your kids care and compassion this Valentine’s Day.

Spend quality time together

The best way to show love to someone you care about is through the gift of quality time. In our busy lives, when we’re rushing from getting the kids ready for school, and then rushing to work, working all day, rushing back home, and everything else in between, life can feel hectic. We get so focused on doing the things we have to do that it’s easy to lose touch with the things we want to do, and the things that are really important: like spending quality time together.

This Valentine’s Day, focus on showing care and compassion with your kids by just spending some quality time together. Sit down with them and do one of the tasks that they enjoy. Is your daughter into coloring? Get out two coloring books, get down on the floor, and color together. Does your son enjoy putting together Legos? Dump out a new set and work on assembling it as a team.

The physical act of getting down on the floor with your kids puts you on the same level as them – literally. It creates a shared bond, as well a special moment of connection between you and your child. When in doubt, get on your child’s level – join their world and let go of yours for a little bit. This is one of the best ways to show care and attention to your kids – on Valentine’s Day and in general.

Give a special gift

Not all holidays require gift-giving, but Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to give your child a little something extra to show that you care.

Gifts can be especially valuable as your child is learning and growing as a way of shaping their love language. “The Five Love Languages” are based on a book written by Gary Chapman. They are: acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, and gifts. These five love languages describe the way we most feel loved and appreciated. And this can vary greatly from person to person, depending on our personality types, and the way we were raised and shaped as children.

The way you raise your children, and the way you show them love has an incredible impact on how they grow and develop, as you very well know. But the way you show them love also has an impact on the way they will show love to others as they grow. If you value the feeling of giving and receiving gifts, that’s something that you can pass along to your child as well. If you value the feeling of physical touch – giving hugs and kisses, and sharing a reassuring squeeze – that’s also something that your child may come to associate with love and care.

Valentine’s Day is an excellent holiday for sharing your understanding of love with your child. It can end up shaping their life more than you realize.

Write a special note

Depending on the age of your child, sending a handwritten note or special Valentine’s Day card is a wonderful way to show love and compassion. (Speaking of love languages, “words of affirmation” is another one of the five love languages – words are so important for showing love and care.)

Spend some time writing a note to your child with all of the reasons you love them: why they are special, why they are deserving of love, and just how much you love them. Providing notes of affirmation, love, and encouragement will bolster your child’s self-esteem, build confidence, and help them grow up with positive feelings about both themselves and others.

Moreso, you can also encourage your child to take time to write out some special notes of their owns – maybe some Valentines – to show their love and appreciation to others. This will help to cultivate an appreciation for how important it is to connect with others and share words of kindness. Plus it’s a great activity to do together – maybe even one that you can make a tradition year after year.

Listen

One of the most powerful things that you can do as a parent is really listen to your child. Give them blank space to talk, and encourage them to speak freely, while you listen attentively. This is especially important to do with children: so much of their days are spent under the care, watch and instruction of others, whether they are being spoken to, coached, or instructed. This means they are very often on the receiving end of the conversation, but they do not get as much of a chance to voice their opinions, and (more so) have someone truly listen.

It’s often said that the greatest gift that you can give to another person is the gift of your undivided attention. Just the act of really listening, and giving the speaker all the time and focus that you have can be so meaningful.

When you listen to your child, and allow them to speak, without judgment or expectation, you’re demonstrating an excellent example of care and compassion – and your child will notice this. Encourage them to speak often – ask open-ended questions, and don’t interject, even when they get to a natural stopping place. Or, continue to ask gentle, probing questions, like “How did that make you feel?”

Another great tactic for communicating with your child, and building their self-esteem and compassion is to ask these question with a positive intent. So, instead of asking “How was your day?” shift your language so it’s inherently positive to “Did you have a great day today?” These subtle undertones of positivity will register in your child’s brain and help them to become more optimistic as a result.

Teach your child about judgement

According to Psychology Today, compassion is defined as “ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself.” Being truly compassionate means you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, empathize with their situation, and do what you can to help them. Showing compassion involves a perspective shift when it comes to how you perceive others and their intentions. Instead of assuming the worst about people and their intentions (e.g. “they’re rude” or “they’re selfish”), shift your perspective to believe there is some reason for them to be acting this way; that they have a good reason for their actions. This helps you internalize a more considerate compassionate attitude.

You can help teach compassion to your child this Valentine’s Day by talking about the idea of judging others or making assumptions about their actions. Teach them the importance of recognizing that we don’t always know what’s going on in people’s lives. For example, even though they see their school teacher every day, he or she has an entire life that exists outside of the school. They probably have a family of their own, as well as their own set of problems, struggles, and challenges.

Teach your child the importance of seeing that people are whole people, not just one-dimensional beings. This will help your child develop a deeper understanding of human nature in general, and begin to comprehend the true meaning of compassion.

Practice a random act of compassion

This one is much harder to plan in advance, as “random” acts of compassion are tough to orchestrate. But perhaps one of the best ways to teach your children care and compassion is by showing it firsthand. Yes, your children may listen to your words, but they also learn from your actions.

So, when you’re out in public and you encounter a person who needs your help, according to the Huffington Post, “stop what you are doing and tend to them, even…if it is not particularly convenient to do so.” Make sure that the environment is safe and handle the situation in an authentic, compassionate way. And after you help the person in question, spend some time sharing with your child why you did what you did – sometimes other people need help, and you can always lend a hand to people who need it.

But it’s okay that you can’t plan for these teaching moments to happen. There is never a right or wrong time to show compassion, and your kids can learn from this too! You can always choose to be kind and do the right thing, no matter how busy you are.

You can also look to other experiences, such as watching TV and movies, or reading books together, where the characters exhibit compassion. Point out instances of compassion as you see them, and explain to your child how a character’s action was kind and compassionate. Use a variety of sources and examples (as well as real-life examples) to teach your child the value of compassion – you never know what may strike them as a particularly poignant moment or learning experience. All children learn and comprehend information differently, so sharing various examples is the best way to maximize their information input.

Volunteer your time together

Perhaps one of the best ways to demonstrate compassion and the importance of caring for others is by showing your child the importance of volunteering. When children become involved firsthand in the act of showing compassion, they are able to learn and internalize this value in a lasting way.

Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to show compassion to others in a way that your child can participate in. Maybe you can assemble crafts or care packages to send to soldiers who are deployed overseas, volunteer at a food donation facility, or visit a nursing home. There are so many great ways to volunteer with your kids. To get started, consider calling your local volunteer center or getting in touch with your local church or community center to see what kind of opportunities they have coming up.

Another great way to volunteer your time and to show compassion is within your own home. Your home is already a safe and supportive environment, so it’s the perfect place to teach difficult lessons on compassion. One great way to do this, if it’s financially and situationally available to you is considering fostering or adopting a pet. Children create special bonds with animals, and having a family pet will allow for many natural lessons around care, kindness, and compassion.

As you can see, there are so many different ways that you can use Valentine’s Day as a platform to continue to teach your child the importance of care and compassion. The most important thing is to spend time with your child to allow the teaching moments to happen. Devote the day to quality time and authentic connection, and let lessons of care and compassion unfold naturally as a result.