I hope all our reminders about Valentine’s Day over the past month did you some good. By now you surely have the special gifts, gestures, and date(s) planned for your wife (and kids). Or maybe you’re one of those couples or families where February 14th isn’t such a big deal, and that’s OK. I get it, believe me.

So maybe this is a good time to step back and see the bigger picture behind all this—for you, as a father. In case you didn’t realize it, you have a significant influence on your children regarding way they view dating and love relationships.

How do we fathers do that? Many ways, but here are three big ones:

And please note: single and divorced dads can do these as well. It might look or sound different in some ways, and it may involve some transparency as you share—in age-appropriate ways—about difficulties from your past. But your children still need to hear from you.

First, we can gently teach them. I know dads sometimes don’t want to meddle in their teenagers’ dating relationships, but that’s an area in which we can make a difference. According to one report, young people tend to have healthier relationships when their parents are available and willing to provide guidance. Moms and dads should be there to listen and offer advice when they ask for it, talk about our lessons we’ve learned, and sometimes pull them aside to check in and make sure they’re thinking clearly about any romantic relationships.

We can also help them see the bigger picture. Just think: right now, if your child chooses to marry, that boy or girl is living and learning and growing … somewhere. He may be growing inside his mother, starting school, or starting to date. Her ability to love and be loved, her values and character are being shaped. What is his family like? Does she have a father at home? Do his parents affirm him with words and actions?

Talk about that with your child. Help him or her appreciate the reality that marriage is the ultimate goal of that dating process, even if it takes many years to find that person. If you’re people of faith, pray for that child—and that family—and even pray for that person with your child.

Then, we can’t forget that we’re important models for how a husband should treat his wife. When you serve and honor her, your children notice. They also pick up on it when you criticize or belittle her. They catch on, and over time it influences their ideas and expectations about marriage. And it will impact their future marriages.

So, be the husband you know you should be. Give those hugs. Hold hands with her. Hold doors open. Be creative in coming up with ways to show her your devotion and respect, and not just on Valentine’s Day. How you show love to your wife sets a great example for your kids—so sons will someday do the same, and so daughters won’t settle for less once they start dating.

What do you do in this area with your kids? Help other dads by sharing your insights about this on our Facebook page.