Whether your kids are on cloud nine or down in the dumps, Valentine's Day can offer you and your family a great chance to talk about fairness, feelings, and the pleasure of giving and receiving. These six tips are geared toward kids ages 6 to 12, and will help you get the conversation started.
Talk About Your Views
Feel free to tell your kids how you feel about Valentines Day. If it's a time you enjoy, share your excitement with them. If you prefer not to celebrate, talk about that, too.
Honor Your Child's Decisions
Let children make their own decisions about giving or not giving valentines. Making these kinds of decisions helps them begin to take responsibility for themselves. If your kids want to give only a few valentines, suggest that they mail them to avoid causing hurt feelings. Negotiations like these, and discussions about how other people might feel as a result of your kids' choices, can help your children learn empathy. It will also get them in the habit of considering the consequences of their actions.
Listen to Your Child
Whenever children come home with hurt feelings, it's important to listen carefully to what they have to say and let them know that you respect what they are feeling. Sometimes, in an effort to make children feel better, we end up inadvertently minimizing or dismissing their feelings.
A valentine card from a member of the opposite sex can evoke giggles and shyness from your kids. They might be embarrassed as well as pleased. However cute or funny we find these exchanges, remember that children's feelings can be badly hurt by our teasing. It's always best to take your cues from your children about how to react. Some kids like to share these events and some are more private.
Many parents like to encourage their children to make their own cards. Be sure to start far enough in advance so that there is time to finish the project, and be prepared for young children to get bogged down in the middle if they have to make a lot of cards.
Your child's teacher may require -- or your child may choose -- to give valentines to every child in her class. Even so, it's still natural for your child to like some kids better than others. Here's your chance to share your own feelings about giving cards or gifts in a way that avoids hurting other people's feelings. This is a good way to help kids begin to think about important life issues such as fairness, honesty, responsibility and generosity.