Parental Expressions of Love and Affection

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on May 8, 2012 5:03 pm












 Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.
                                                                                                          ~ Erich Segal

 As parents, we may recall our own parent’s physical and verbal expressions of affection.  Becoming parents changes our perceptional lenses, shifting our previous views and expressions of affection.   As a parent, we are looking through a lens of discovery evaluating what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.  How do we determine what is appropriate or inappropriate? Who’s to say that my perceptions of affection are correct, while your perceptions are incorrect?    Should there be standards for gauging various forms and degrees of affection?


The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. 

                                                                                                       ~ Natalie Cole

As a parent, you should strive to set guidelines of  what is appropriate. In healthy relationships, parents should feel comfortable displaying suitable forms of affection.  Children should never feel at odds with displays of parental affection.  If parents begin displaying appropriate and healthy forms of affection when a child is young, then when they mature they will have mental images of a healthy relationship. 


Love should be a vehicle allowed to travel without limitations . 

                                                                                                       ~ Marvin J. Ashton

Children are sponges, soaking up every verbal and nonverbal interaction.  If children are shown displays of affection that are only appropriate for the bedroom, then their childlike minds will infer that this is an appropriate act for any age. 

Parents should consider how, when, and what types of affection they display in front of their children.  They should always consider the appropriateness of the type of affection being displayed.    Why? If children feel uncomfortable with the affection being displayed, they may be at odds with their parents.  Thus, causing possible internal strife or confusion.  

An objective of parents should be to offer an open line of communication, reassuring children that it is always safe to ask questions or pose concerns.   “If parents are attuned to their child, they are sensitive to the child’s signals…” (Hendrix and Hunt, 2004, p. 140) Therefore, alerting parents to any behavioral changes or attitudes that may occur. 



I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. 

                                                                                                       ~ Mother Teresa

Marriages that lack affection are often stagnate, lacking personal flow between the couple. What causes stagnation? In some cases, the marriage has evolved from a highly affectionate and interactive relationship to a relationship lacking of expressions of affection because of interpersonal trials and tribulations.  In other cases, the “couple,” have never known such a bond.   People often have images of what they are seeking when they enter a relationship.  “Unfortunately, for many of us this picture is highly idealized or romanticized and bears little resemblance to who is actually to marry.  In marriage, ‘the honeymoon is over’ is the pop phrase for the difference between the idealized person we hoped was our mate and the real person who, shortly after the marriage, we ‘discover’ is our mate.” (Glasser and Glasser, 2000, p. 67) 

Idealizing and romanticizing is similar to fueling your body with candy bar; while your body uses the sugars from the candy bar to boosts its energy level, in time the fuel sloughs off leaving your body feeling depleted of energy.   Unfortunately, when a relationship is based on “false pretenses,” you will soon begin to discover that the foundations of your relationship are sloughing off  leaving little attractiveness and cohesiveness. 


I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you. 

                                                                                                        ~ Roy Croft

Children who are taught appropriate forms of affection early on, have an internal barometer that is capable of measuring and forecasting what is appropriate and inappropriate in future relationships.  When parents offer a healthy expression of love and affection, they guide their children down pathways of appropriateness. 


The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. 

                                                                                                        ~ Morrie Schwartz

To begin, we must acknowledge that affection and the expressions of our love have cultural significance.  Whether we are flirting, hugging, kissing, holding hands, or offering subtle nonverbal or verbal gestures or communication; expressions of love and affection are influenced by societal images and ideologies.  It is prudent that we are aware of the appropriate and inappropriate displays of affection within our society.  If we teach our children to outwardly display a form of affection that is deemed culturally inappropriate, we are setting our children up for possible conflicts and potential hardships.  We should be sensitive to the culture with which we live.

Individuals who purposefully display affection through either holding hands, hugs, kissing, flirting, or some other nonverbal or verbal gesture or communication; are more apt to have healthier forms of communication.  For it is the purposeful expression that reinforces the relationship’s core foundations of trust and intimacy. 

Children should be witnesses of parental affection.  They should learn what is appropriate and inappropriate through the verbal and nonverbal interactions of their parents. 

Author:   Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D.


Glasser, W., Glasser, C. (2000) Getting together and staying together, Solving the mystery of  marriage. New York, New York:  HarperCollins

Glasser, W. (1995) Staying together, A control theory guide to a lasting marriage. New York, New York: HarperCollins

Hendrix, H., Hunt, H. L. (2004) Receiving love, Transforming your relationship by letting yourself be loved. New York, New York:  Atria Books

Reiser, P. (1994) Couplehood. New York, New York:  Bantam Books

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

12 comments on “Parental Expressions of Love and Affection”

  1. Elva Anson says:

    Children who are loved and cherished thrive. When parents spend time and make parenting a high priority, they get through their children’s adolescent years more easily. Often children coming from such families, make good choices because they don’t want to hurt their parents. It comes from the relationship.

    1. Dear Elva Anson,

      I am appreciative of your time and recent review. I wholeheartedly agree that children who are shown affection and are loved will thrive. It is vitally important that children are shown the respect and love that they deserve.

      Again, thank you for your time and review.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  2. Irene Jao says:

    Thank you for your good article, I appreciate the topic very much. A lot of thoughts crossed my mind as I was reading it, and finally I asked myself what my children see in the relationship with my husband. Our African culture is a bit conservative, so with that background and exposure to more western ways of life, we become confused about how couples should show affection to each other. All the same, I think personal decisions should be the driving force that will unlock this stalemate. I also believe that so long as there is love couples will send positive signals to their children whether they show their affection openly or not. Children I believe will still soak in the positive vibes from their parents and enjoy a stable relationship at home and outside.

    1. Dear Irene Jao,

      I am sincerely appreciative of your time and feedback. It’s so true that “if-and-only-if” parents “show their affection openly… children will soak (up) the positive vibes from their parents…” Moreover, its vitally important that parents not only show affection to their children, but as well as to one another. Showing love to one another sets an example of what children should look for and require their own relationships. Ultimately, parents are the primary role model of a child’s life from childhood through adulthood.

      Again, thank you for your time and efforts.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Dear Deb P.

    I am certainly appreciative of your thoughtful reply. It is unfortunate that we have to learn from the wrongs and mistakes of others, but fortunately, we are capable of learning from their errors. In my personal life, as well as, my professional life, I have always felt that I learn more from the obstacles and mistakes of life, than I have my successes. Therefore, I challenge you to look upon the positive perspectives taught and offered through your life, rather than focus upon the negative. Moreover, I agree that it appears that our society has become conscious of it’s surroundings, whether deliberately or unintentionally, society appears to becoming more aware of it’s needs.

    I am sincerely appreciative of your insightful reply.

    May you have a truly blessed day.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Asa Don Brown

  4. Deborah Pickering says:

    Hello Dr. Brown,

    The way you addressed this topic is very nicely done. Upon reading the title I thought it would be irrelevant to me because I saw little parental affection growing up. What I witnessed certainly affected my perception of intimate relationships, what I expect them to be like.

    So I am glad you addressed both sides of the equation, witnessing love and affection, and witnessing negative interactions. Both have a significant impact on children’s views of what to expect from an intimate relationship.

    From what I have seen in my lifetime, and still see sometimes, is parents who have no idea what appropriate behavior is. Abuse and disrespect can be so prevalent in some communities that it is perpetuated from generation to generation. Inappropriate behavior becomes ‘the norm’.

    Do not despair though, for I have witnessed the more positive side of parents’ appropriate behavior in front of their children as well! It is a no-brainer which children are happier and have a more positive outlook on life.

    I believe that there is a very strong…movement..if you like, in the global community toward teaching all people to be more loving, more accepting, and teaching by living life in the appropriate way. I just wish the good things in life would hurry up a little, ha ha. Anyway, thank you for your very enjoyable article on a very important topic.
    Cheers, Deb P.

  5. Tracy says:

    Thank you Dr Brown for your exploration of the expression of parental love. It is amazing to think that our children learn and understand how relationships work by watching their parents and other significant couples in their lives. Even small expressions of affection, love, appreciation can make an amazing impact on what is viewed as a good relationship and what is a poor or harmful relationship. Children who only see expressions of frustration, anger and stress will surely have difficulty within their own relationships.

    I know personally when my husband and I focus a little extra energy on expressions of love and affection that for me, besides my children, all of life’s challenges become more manageable and life in general is good.

    Thank you again for your inspiring article.


    1. Dear Tracy,

      Thank you for your thoughtful review and comments. I appreciate your thoughts on love and affection. Your comments are so poignant, “Even small expressions of affection, love, appreciation can make an amazing impact on what is viewed as a good relationship and what is a poor or harmful relationship.” Children do learn from the “smallest of expressions”, and if we avoid those expressions of love, appreciation, and affection, then we avoid teaching our children some of the most valuable perspectives on life and love.

      I am appreciative of your thoughtful review.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  6. Lynnette Lettinga says:

    “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love and respect their mother” ~author unknown
    When children know that their parents love each other, they can face any other problem.

    1. Dear Lynnette Lettinga,

      I am appreciative of your time and review of my latest article. I sincerely appreciate the quote too…“The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love and respect their mother” ~author unknown

      It is so true that “when children know that their parents love each other, they can face any other problem.”

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  7. PaulD says:

    When you work one-on-one with another human being and the object is to help them improve their outlook on themselves; you begin to see a twinkle in their eye, a brightness in their facial expressions, a reassurance in their persona, a bounce in their walk and a hope in their voice. Your take on parental expressions of love and affection are refreshing.

    1. Dear Paul D.,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my latest article. I appreciate your thoughts on this most prudent article. As parents, we are the ultimate role model for our children. If we do not offer positive perspectives on living and love, then our children will have to either devise or find this concept elsewhere. It is vitally important that we offer a positive through our homes and our actions.

      Thank you for your time and efforts.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

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