Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Why the family is the most beautiful school of love


Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock

Aleteia - published on 03/03/20

Children learn about God's love for them through their parents' example.

Children seem to have an intuition for feeling the love that unites their parents. They notice it through small details of daily life: conversations, gestures, and acts of love and forgiveness.

Children do much better when their parents know how to solve family problems by practicing love in action. When the values of love are cultivated first of all in the relationship between husband and wife, the child has a clear idea of what it means to love.

To love is to give oneself

Love is a subtle blend of feeling and reason that gives a vital impetus to all family relationships. It’s a mighty river that can carry everything away, so it needs two banks to keep it well contained: intelligence and will.

Love is too often understood only in the sense of desire, and not in the sense of giving and self-giving. To be true, love must be reciprocal between parents and children; otherwise it’s limited to mere imitation of the parents, as children naturally do when they love their parents.

Love can degenerate into “devotion,” as when parents are overly possessive of their children. Conversely, it can slip into an excessive spirit of sacrifice, as is the case of many mothers who no longer have a minute to themselves and who confuse love with letting themselves be consumed. All these deviations need to be transformed into true love that receives in order to give.

Children’s growth in love goes through four stages: self-love when they are small; then preferring the other to themselves, with their first friendships; then mastering their desires and trusting others in adolescence; and finally, moving from the ideal to the real as they approach adulthood, through compassionate love that reaches out to other people.

“When a conflict among themselves stirs up my kids, they cry and scream, and I give them a little time to work it out before trying to find out what’s going on so I can use the situation to teach them a real lesson in tolerance. Everything is grace!” says one mother of a large family who thinks of mercy before justice.

Reflections of divine love

To love one’s children as God loves them, with tender affection, is to reflect divine love through one’s parental love. Is enough said about the grace that passes through the gentle gestures of parents (which does not exclude firmness)? Parents’ actions reveal God to their children more than a thousand words.

By reconciling gift and desire—these two faces of love—the family perfectly embodies the reciprocity of love. Love is both desire and gift: sometimes a gift of desire, and sometimes the desire to give oneself. Desire, which is a natural need in children, must mature into a more supernatural form of love (self-giving) in adolescence. When children receive a successful education in their family—a school for learning love—it leads to growth from a love of mere affection to a love of disinterested and fulfilling self-giving.

Father Michel Martin-Prével


Read more:
How the love of husband and wife is fed by the Eucharist


Read more:
3 Ways to thrive in your vocation as a Catholic family


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.