I also come from a family who says "I love you" to each other quite often.
I have carried that into my adult life.
If I love you ... I tell you. (disclaimer: I might love you but not tell you if you seem like the person who would think that it bizarre).
Much like you would a family member, I tell my girlfriend's I love them.
When getting off the phone. When saying hello. When saying goodbye. If something funny happens and I feel love for them.
If I feel it ... I tell you.
I tell my students sometimes too.
And it usually sounds like this:
"I'm telling you - you can't do that because I love you and care about your safety."
... or ...
"Have a great night tonight you guys. I'll see you tomorrow morning. I love you all. Not like your mom and dad loves you. But like how your teacher loves you."
In fact, at the beginning of school year on the first or second day, I spend an entire Circle Time devoted to MY rules which I promise to follow. Not the student's rules (like raise your hand to talk or two in the bathroom at one time), but MY rules.
And it goes a little something like this:
Ms. Diederichs' Plan & Promise
I believe in you.
I trust in you.
You are listened to.
You are cared for.
You are important to me.
You can be a problem solver.
We can learn and grow together.
In fact, once when I was teaching in our school's resource room, I had a wonderful student named Adelle.
One day, I took her into the teacher's workroom to make some copies. When we were done with our copying duties, we both stuck one hand on top of the copy machine glass and made the "I love you sign" in sign language.
We made two copies.
I gave her one ... the other I hung on my personal bulletin board for years. I loved how little her hands looked next to mine.
Both expressing the same message.
So ... if I tell you that I love you ... I hope not to catch you off guard.
I don't want you to get the wrong picture ... I'm not a crazy I-walk-around-saying-I-love-you-to-everyone person. I'm just saying that I think it's nice to say to the people you care close to. I think people feel it a lot but don't say it enough.
Life is too short not to.
I also come from a family of kissers. But don't worry ... I'll save that for my family. ;)