It’s that time of year again. Starry-eyed boys and girls are anticipating getting valentines from their special someone. Or maybe they’re dreading the reminder that they’re not in a relationship. Or maybe they’re just trying to ignore Valentine’s Day completely.
How Valentine’s Day impacts our kids will depend a lot on their personalities, their school’s culture, and our families’ attitudes toward the holiday. It’s helpful for us to be aware of how the holiday affects our children. Whether or not we use Valentine’s Day as a chance to educate our kids about love and relationships, it’s an excellent opportunity to remind them how much we love them. We hope you enjoy these five helpful tips to creating a meaningful conversation about Valentine’s Day this year.
1. Assure them it’s ok not to have a significant other
As a teenager, it can feel like the end of the world to be single on Valentine’s Day. Single girls (who tend to focus on romance more than guys do) in particular can feel depressed on Valentine’s Day. And even if they don’t feel a deep loneliness, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to harbor a wish that, at least once, they would get an unexpected valentine from someone.
It is possible for a guy to also experience Valentine’s Day as a painful reminder that he isn’t in a relationship or that the girl he likes doesn’t like him back. But more likely, if they register it at all, they simply feel their singleness more than usual or see Valentine’s Day as an annoyance. It can be very confusing to know how to react to the holiday. Do they try to find a girlfriend? Do they make fun of people who are in relationships? Do they go off and do something cool with their friends? No matter how your teen reacts, simply remind them that having a boyfriend or girlfriend does not change how much so many others love them!
2. Don’t make it a big deal
We probably don’t need to mention this, but we don’t want to increase whatever pressure is already on our children when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Hinting—even in a joking way—that we expect them to get romantic attention will probably just make them feel stressed or bad about themselves. Help them deal with the holiday by not making a big deal out of it in a negative way.
3. Help them to have a healthy view of relationships all year round
Our culture holds romance up as the ideal type of love. Love songs dominate pop culture. It’s rare to see a movie (such as Master and Commander) that celebrates other types of relationships without including romance at all.
Your kids might or might not be susceptible to idolizing romantic love, so it will be up to you to know where they are and disciple them accordingly. Don’t downplay romance— it’s a beautiful gift from God that we should celebrate! But the first and greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbors. So how can we encourage our kids (whether they’re in relationships or not) to love God and their neighbors well?
If your kids are dating, hopefully you’re mentoring them through that process and teaching them how to approach relationships with wisdom. If they are following good relationship principles the rest of the year, it’s much more likely they’ll know how to approach Valentine’s Day well.
Whether or not you allow your kids to date, we recommend encouraging them to focus on friendships with the same sex and teach them how to have healthy friendships with the opposite sex.
4. Ok, do make it a big deal
One mom hosts an annual Anti-Valentine’s Day party and uses the time to discuss what healthy relationships look like, including how to have wisdom and good etiquette on social media. While you might not want to come out as “anti” Valentine’s Day, you could use the holiday as a way to do something similar.
5. Surprise—love is the most important thing!
But probably the best way we can encourage our teens on Valentine’s Day is by showing how much we love them. Even if they are secretly wishing they’d get a valentine from someone they like, they will appreciate receiving gifts, candy, or affectionate notes from us.
We have a friend who says that, in college, he would send his mom and sister letters and their favorite kinds of chocolate every Valentine’s Day. This is something that dads can encourage their sons to do, even from a very young age.
We have another friend who says that Valentine’s Day is her favorite holiday of the year, but not because of the romantic aspect of it. When she was growing up, her family used the day as a time to extravagantly celebrate and love one another. Everyone in the family, including her cousins, would send one another valentines. They would have a huge breakfast with elaborate decorations and give each other tons of chocolate. They emphasized how much people in the family were loved, whether they were in relationships or not.
It’s also a great opportunity to encourage our teens to love those around them. A new family tradition could be to focus on those in our communities who truly need love on Valentine’s Day. Take some time to write encouraging notes and take them to prisoners, recovering addicts, the elderly, the disabled, or homeless people. Give gifts (not necessarily chocolate and flowers, but maybe meals and hugs) to those who need them. We don’t have to fully take the focus off our teens’ romantic interests, but we can make sure to draw them into the bigger picture of God’s desire for us to show His love to a broken, hurting world.