The season for candy hearts, chocolate, flowers, love and cynicism is upon us. Valentine’s Day can be a pretty polarizing celebration. How many times have you heard (or said) that V-Day is simply a construction of greeting card companies to give us a reason to buy things? And how often have you been disappointed by the plans you did or didn’t have on February 14? Valentine’s Day comes with a lot of baggage: impossibly high expectations or eye-rolling and everything in between. But what does Valentine’s Day mean to kids and what do we want to pass on about it?
Whether we like it or not, V-Day is unavoidable. When young kids are in school, sending valentines to everyone in the class (as well as teachers) seems to be the norm. They see the decorations and candy in the store. It’s not as though we can just erase the trappings from our lives, so how do we deal with Valentine’s Day?
Essentially, the idea of a day set aside to share and declare love is a good one. So why not focus on that? Teaching kids about the importance of sharing their love is just as worthwhile as teaching them to express their gratitude. Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating and Valentine’s Day isn’t just about candy.
For some kids, hearing about love doesn’t happen too often. We might tell them that we love them when they’re off to school or before they go to bed, but talking about love in other ways may be scarce. If they only hear us telling them that we love them (which of course, they should hear), they might not learn that love is everywhere.
Do they know that you love your spouse? Do they know that you love your parents? Do they know that you love the dog? Do they know that you love your best friend? Do they know that you love spaghetti? Do they know that you love the the blanket that you had when you were a child?
While we might worry about overusing the word love, underusing it can be a problem too. People and things that are dear to us matter. Let your kids hear you talk about your feelings and encourage them to do the same. Ask them what they love. The answers might surprise you.
Talking about love is great, but showing it is really what makes us believe it. We already do this in so many ways. But usually when we point it out to a child, we’re using it to convince them that we’re right. “I’m only asking you to do this because I love you. It’s for your own good.”
Be dependable: It may sound boring, but saying you’re going to do something and then doing it (!) is a great way to show someone that you care about them.
Give them your full attention & listen to them: You can convey that what they do and say is important. And this then shows them that you care.
Use non-verbals: Flash them the “I love you” sign. Give them a wink, a smile, a thumbs up. Blow them a kiss. Give them a hug. Laugh with them. Write them a note. Make them a picture.
Do “special” things: Special treats and time can be used now and again to really convey love and respect. You can have special one-on-one time with your kids. You can make their favorite meal just because. You can let them choose every game you play one afternoon (even if it means Candyland 7 times in a row). You can go to the library and pick out a book that you’ll only read together.
While we’re caught up in the throes of making class valentines and special snacks for school, let’s try to remember to take a minute (or a few hours) and actually talk about love. It is the reason for all the fuss after all.