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Ask Nicole: Expressing Love Through Quality Time


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 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


Dear Nicole,


My wife and I have been so stressed and busy with work and taking care of our 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son that we feel like we barely get any quality time together as a family. Do you have any fun but simple activity ideas we can try to reconnect? The kids seem to just want to watch TV or play on tablets these days, and with our busy schedule it’s been easy to let them keep themselves occupied.


-          Martin


Dear Martin,


It's understandable how busy schedules and devices can make quality time hard, even more so around holidays. It’s also easy to forget the true purpose of many holidays, like giving thanks, celebrating miracles, or showing love. But small, creative activities can go a long way. Here are some ideas for simple ways to teach your kids about love on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year:


Do an activity together without distractions or interruptions. Have a simple Valentine's celebration at home by playing board games, baking heart-shaped treats, or making homemade cards for loved ones. Turn off electronics and spend time interacting.


Have dinner together. Make your family Valentine's dinner special. Dim the lights, play some music, share favorite memories, and express heartfelt appreciation. 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 “I love you” with words, notes, pictures, or texts. Leave sweet notes in lunch boxes on Valentine's Day. Tuck one under their pillow to make them smile. Text a heart emoji just because. A little love note can brighten their whole day. 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.


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, this will become a habit.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Remember there are many ways to teach children about giving and receiving love on Valentine’s Day and every day. The simple acts of love often mean the most and create the happiest family memories. Don't underestimate the power of your attention this Valentine's Day!


08 Expressing Love - February 2024 - TriplePNews (Eng)
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Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also managed Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program for over 10 years. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit, or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or 

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