What We Should Be Teaching the Younger Generation About Valentine's Day

Some of us are delighted by the holiday marked by love. Some of us cringe in annoyance and hide in our apartments until midnight. There’s those of us who have become indifferent to the rom-coms and rose petals. And then, of course, there are about a million feelings in between. 

Surely, every adult has their own opinions about Valentine’s Day, but I’ve started to think lately (as one who tries to live through the day like every other), what role did my childhood impression of the holiday have to do with shaping what I think of it today? And, furthermore, is there anything that future parents, or those of us with young children in our lives, can do to promote a healthy image of what it should mean to them? Should we teach children to unlearn the romantic side of the 24 hours and redefine its meaning, separating it from emotional discomfort if they don’t have a special date?

 

In elementary school, when everyone was required to hand out equal valentines to their classmates, it was easy to feel included and well-liked by peers, but in middle school, when this practice stopped, I personally began to feel crushed when I was short a box of candy hearts or I didn’t get a lollipop from the boy in my diary pages. This is why I think, above all, it’s crucially important to teach children that Valentine’s Day is by no means a representation of their self-worth, whether they’re surrounded by affection from another person or find themselves without company. The childhood and subsequent teenage years are full enough of challenges and revelations in social and emotional development during the other 364 days of the year, and for Valentine’s Day, anyone can benefit from an extra hug or a simple “I love you” to make them feel loved and special. A simple act of affection can go a long way for these developing minds. 

Secondly, the societal image that’s purposefully meant to stick with us, through boxes of chocolates and teddy bears, is that Valentine’s Day is solely meant to celebrate and display your love for your romantic partner. However, in 2021, the frame around the picture that February 14th is explicitly about romance needs to be broken, and the pieces rearranged. Instead, in conversations about the holiday with members of the younger generation, whether that be a sibling, cousin, or any child in your life, we should be promoting the message that it can and should be a day to not only celebrate romantic partners (and those of any gender), but the holiday should also be a time celebrate friends, parents, grandparents, teammates, pets, or anyone that’s meaningful to them. Let’s talk to kids about normalizing not only showing appreciation for their loved ones, but let’s also teach them that kindness matters, and through big and small gestures alike, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to include everyone in it.

Lastly, there are times when Valentine’s Day, despite as hard as you may try to drown out the traditional stereotypes, may be tough. Maybe it comes after a difficult breakup, maybe it brings back a certain painful memory, or maybe it’s just an off day. The same can apply to kids, and this is why we also need to teach children that whatever their personal feelings are with the day, those are completely acceptable and valid, too. Whether or not there's an outside reason for their discomfort on the day of love, let’s remind children that taking the time to care for their own mental health on Valentine’s Day is no less of a way to make the minutes tick by. Encourage kids to log off social media if they need a break; the digital world will still be there tomorrow. Tell them to get some extra rest, drink water, take a walk, or do something that relieves their minds and puts them at ease. Although Valentine’s Day can be a lovely and happy time one year, it may not be the next; ultimately, it’s important to listen to your heartbecause it will always come first. If you can teach a child this while their ears are open, chances are they’ll remember it for good as an adult.