Whether your child is totally indifferent or absolutely smitten, here’s how Valentine’s Day can help them to learn about happy, healthy relationships all year round.
Love knows no limits
There’s something weirdly restrictive about Valentine’s Day. We don’t have to show our love to just one person. We can feel lots of different kinds of love – for friends, family, pets – and there can be real benefits to expressing this. Show your child what joy there can be in telling people that we care about them. Would they like to send a message to a friend who may feel sad? Or a homemade gift to a family member who may feel alone? Receiving these messages and presents out of the blue can feel a lot more meaningful than a Valentine’s card, anyway! What if your child would really like to get into the Valentine’s spirit? Galentines is a great way for them to celebrate healthy friendships.
Relationships come in lots of shapes and sizes
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to chat to your child about the different kinds of relationships out there, and that it is also perfectly okay to not be in a romantic relationship at all! It’s important not to reinforce stereotypes, to put our child under pressure, or make assumptions about how your child feels. Relationships also come in lots of different shapes and sizes and across genders. You could watch age appropriate TV shows or movies with positive examples of couples who don’t meet the heterosexual stereotype. For teenagers, Heartstopper combines themes of love and homophobia as two boys fall for each other.
Show your child that while relationships can be full of joy, we can also be happy on our own, too. If you or your child is feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day, go ahead and treat yourselves with a bit of self-care. There are often special Valentine’s meals in the supermarket, or you could indulge in your favourite food or something new that you haven’t tried before. By having a lovely time, you’re helping your child to learn that they can make the most of things for themselves, and that being alone can have its advantages!
(Extra tip: there are often discounted chocolates from the 15th February, and a box for couples means that there’s lots of chocolate to share around…or eat for yourself).
Empathise with your child
Whether or not your child would like a Valentine from someone, the day can heighten feelings of loneliness and rejection for some people. When other children at school are swapping sweets and cards, it can feel difficult, or if your child has been through a recent break-up it may feel particularly painful.
Be a listening ear for your child. They might not want to talk to you about what or who in particular has upset them, but they may well feel more comfortable having a conversation about being left out and managing feelings of rejection. Listen to any stories they have to share around Valentines Day, and the questions, thoughts and feelings it might bring up for them.
If they’re feeling lonely, empathise with how they’re feeling and try to show them that you’ve really heard what they’ve said. You might want to offer advice on how to make friends, but do so sensitively so they know that they haven’t done anything wrong and that what they’re feeling isn’t their fault. If they are experiencing heartbreak, don’t make light of the situation, but listen to how they are feeling and validate their feelings. Those first heartbreaks can be really painful. You can’t take the pain away, but you can reinforce everything there is to love about your child, and help them feel connected to others. Give them time to heal, and help them find positive ways to express their emotions, and start to feel better. For example, writing down how they are feeling, listening to music, doing hobbies and activities they enjoy, and spending time with friends.
Take time for yourself! Valentine’s Day can raise all sorts of feelings for us as adults, too. Make the most of the chance to reach out to someone you care about, or treat yourself to some self-care. Fingers crossed it’ll be the best Valentine’s you’ve ever had.