two children exchanging giftsValentine’s Day for parents can take a holiday that already has the potential to be annoying and truly make it a hell. You’ve got to worry about making reservations for you and your significant other, finding some poor schmuck to pawn the kids off on for the night, and generally meeting whatever internalized expectations you have for the night. Or not, if you’re single, but there’s still probably some level of stressing involved. Add to that the obscene amounts of sugar your child will probably be consuming and the popularity contests that might be going on in the classroom vis-à-vis the tradition of handing out Valentine’s Day cards, and you’ve got a recipe for a harrowing day. Good luck.

Potential of stress aside, Valentine’s Day can be the perfect opportunity to talk to your child about having respect for their peers. Hopefully, your child’s teacher will want to keep the hurt feelings to a minimum and institute a class-wide mandate that students have to give Valentine’s Day cards/treats/what-have-you to everyone in the class or they can’t give out anything at all (if not, maybe slip him or her the idea). Your kid might question this decision with a “But I don’t like Susie, why should I give her anything?” or a “Jack is gross, I don’t want to give him any candy,” which is where you swoop in and explain, patiently, of course, that Jack and Susie have feelings and that those feelings would probably be very hurt if they get left out. You can use the moment to drive home the idea that we should be considerate of other people, even if we don’t particularly like them. And it’s okay for your kids to express dislike of some of their classmates, since you can’t expect your kid to like all of his or her classmates equally. But you can expect your kid to be decent and not go out of their way to exclude or hurt others.

If the commercialized nature of Valentine’s Day and what it might suggest to your child has got you a little apprehensive, use this time to have a discussion on different ways to express affection and appreciation for loved ones. Stress the fact that the giving of gifts is only one way of expressing affection, and that there is romantic love, the love you have for your family and the love you have for your friends. Have your kid think of alternative ways to show someone how much they’re liked and what would be appropriate in each of those cases, and give him or her suggestions if they need them, like giving a hug or a kiss, offering to do a favor, or giving a compliment. You might even want to consider having your child make Valentine’s Day cards instead of buying them, though you’ll want to give yourself enough time to make them because no one wants to stay up the night before with 30+ homemade Valentines to make. Also, remember that children are like sponges, soaking up everything from their surroundings, so if mommy makes it known that she’s expecting a fancy dinner and a diamond necklace for Valentine’s Day, then you can expect that your kid will come to value those kinds of things on Valentine’s Day, too. Which isn’t necessarily wrong or right, since everyone’s values are unique – just something to consider as you go about making your own plans for this day.

With a little bit of conversation, you can make sure that Valentine’s Day is a valuable teaching opportunity for your child and not just a society-approved day to binge on sugar and grab at gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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