What’s love got to do with it?

I had the pleasure of going to the spring Social Pedagogy Development Network conference in Edinburgh recently. In normal fashion the SPDN chose a subject which we all think about but rarely have the guts or ability to start talking about in a professional context. The subject was love and whether we should or could talk about this massive subject in our working lives.

Predictably we started to share ideas, debate and we realised how complex the subject was. Some people shared that they had reciprocated love with the people in their caring context? They shared how that had gone for them and some told about their love for colleagues. What was interesting was the vast array of the meanings for what love meant for different people in a professional context and how hijacked the word had become (maybe even as you read this, your understanding of love has painted a picture in your mind about what it means to you). As we explored it was becoming clear that somehow we all wanted to understand and practice love but the hard part was how do we do that, give language to it and ultimately display it in our roles. We all know that we need love so how can we just ignore it in our work even when can come across as unprofessional or misunderstood?

I was able to share a little bit about love in a fostering context and as I prepped I was aware of how core the message of love was in our house. All the kids are offered it and it is unconditional. Sometimes we have used the word directly and sometimes we have realised in certain contexts that it was not appropriate due to circumstance. There can be a real sense of fear in telling a young person that you love them since it can be misconstrued or misunderstood. Their understanding of love might be very different to yours. Most often however, love is an intent toward another, a hanging on through thick and thin, the reminder to a young person that they are not defined by their behaviour.

Ultimately we reached no conclusion as we only had a day and a half of discussion and debate but the proverbial ball has been set in motion. Once again social pedagogy got us to ask the hard question with the best intention for ourselves and the people we work with in sight. I have no idea if we will ever reach a complete conclusion on how we talk about love but I do know that we need to reflect on it and love each other in our families. We need to give love the space it needs to build and encourage the young people we work and live with. I would encourage you to think about what love means for you. Do you use the word with your young people? What is your social worker’s understanding of it? Would it be appropriate in your situation? Whatever the answers might be, remember that your kids need love so just make sure you find ways of making sure they get it and know it!


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