Children nowadays are bombarded with the concept of St. Valentine’s Day from a very young age, part of the general tendency for children to be pushed into adult behaviours at ever earlier ages. St. Valentine’s Day, however, no longer need be thought of as a day only for secret lovers and hidden messages, but as an opportunity for everyone to show the people that are special how much they mean to us.
Of course, many children will love the opportunity to show friends and family how much they care for them, but should children be encouraged to give gifts for St. Valentine’s Day? Well, think about the message this gives out - that the only way you show someone love is by buying them gifts.
It’s much better to persuade them to spend a little time and effort on making a special Valentine card or gift rather than spending a lot of money to show their love. Any parent, grandparent, friend, teacher or carer would prefer a home-made card, created with real love, than an expensive shop bought item.
So, get out the paper or card and pencils, glitter, glue and paint and get the kids doing something creative. If they prefer not to draw, print off colouring pictures (there are lots available free on the internet, including our own Valentine's Day Colouring Pictures) for them to colour in or to use as a base for a collage.
We must not pressure young children into thinking they should be in a ‘relationship’. Children aged 6 or 7 should surely not be subjected to the disappointment and humiliation of the ‘how many Valentines did you get?’ interrogation which I remember so well from my teen years. Oh! the relief when 14th February fell on a weekend or half term holiday!
It is very important that no child is made to feel that they ‘have to’ send Valentines cards, that they ‘should’ have a girl/boyfriend to send one to or that there ‘must be someone they fancy’. No matter whether your child is in primary school or a teenager this sort of pressure is unwelcome and embarrassing.
If they don’t get any cards, be sympathetic; if they want a shoulder to cry on, be there for them but if they don’t want to talk, don’t badger them for details on how many cards their friends received. On the other hand, if they receive lots of cards, remind them that it’s not nice to show off about it!
Finally, please do not condone your child sending malicious Valentine’s cards – sent as a ‘joke’ to an unpopular classmate to make them think someone likes them. This is just another type of bullying.
No matter what age your children are, it is always good to remind them while cards and chocolates may be nice, showing your love means treating others with kindness, respect and consideration all year round.
About The Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the editor of eParenting.