Just when it seems like the commercial excess of winter holidays is winding down, along comes Valentine’s Day and the advertising barrage of “spend for love.” It’s tempting to fall into the “give them all we can” trap to provide the most and the best stuff possible for our children (and the adults we love).
But Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about love. Sometimes, between the giant, silver foil candies and the heart-shaped sugar cookies, simple love gets shoved into the shadows. With hectic schedules, we sometimes forget to create moments, not purchase things, for our children, and we just need a little reminder. Valentine’s Day is a good place to start.
Cherished childhood moments are not made of expensive gifts or fancy parties, but of simple acts of snuggling, conversations, unhurried time spent together, and traditions repeated and passed down through the generations. Rather than buy something, make something—time and memories most of all.
Here are a few simple ways to show your child your love throughout the year:
Express “I love you” in words and notes. We are so busy showing our children that we love them, making money to provide for them, taking them places, and giving them things, that we sometimes just forget to say, “I love you.” Children often feel that they are only loved when they are good or when we are praising them.
Be with your child. Are we just rushing from place to place and chore to chore? Even though it’s difficult, turn off the radio, put down the cell phone, and be with your child, not just around him.
Make something with your child—for Valentine’s Day and any other day. It doesn’t have to be a Martha Stewart moment. Keep it simple: make a heart, a note, a meal, a poem.
“Let go” of your guilt. Being a parent can be overwhelming at times. We often question whether what we are doing is right and if we are giving our children the love, attention, and discipline they need to be successful in school and life. There is no right way to be a good parent. Allow for your own mistakes and “let go” of the guilt.
Celebrate your child’s best efforts and successes. When our children were infants, they would look up searching for our smiles when they pulled up, made a toy squeak, or clapped their hands. Their every move was a triumph. With older children, we can still praise good grades, good manners, and more important, controlling anger, helping a friend, and playing soccer well, even though we all know our child is not the best one on the team.
Model and teach your child about love, friendship, kindness, and inclusion. Valentine’s Day is a day that children learn about and express values. Whom to acknowledge? Selective card giving or acknowledging each member of a class or group? Expensive cards? Personal notes? Your child may need your help swimming through the currents of commercial excess and social acceptance.
Dream with your child. Remember as a child lying on your back and looking at the sky, naming the shapes of clouds floating by and thinking about life—just daydreaming. Simple thoughts and conversations can spark the imagination, plant a seed of curiosity, or begin a dream. Every job well done, every great act of generosity began with a thought, a dream. Hang out and dream with your child.
Watch your child sleep. Before you go to bed each night, spend a few minutes watching your sleeping child. Breathe in the calmness and know it’s all worth it.
Happy Valentine’s Day!