Most elementary school students see Valentines Day either as a popularity contest, something related to that embarrassing business between girlfriends and boyfriends, or an excuse to eat candy. Either way, school-age kids can get kind of squirmy about it.
Why? Well, if the emphasis is on popularity, then your coolness quotient can be measured by the stack of paper hearts you receive, which is exhilarating for the popular kids and humiliating for the unpopular ones. If the emphasis is on that sexy stuff see on TV, kids may feel anxious, embarrassed, overstimulated or all of the above.
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So how can parents talk to school-age kids about Valentines Day? Well, there's not much use in denying that it has something to do with romantic love. After all, they're not stupid. However, parents and teachers can offer kids an alternative understanding of Valentines Day ... one that helps counter the overstimulation and anxiety of social competition.
Let your kids know that Valentines Day is also about a kind of love that has nothing to do with sexiness or popularity. It's about expressing love through kindness. Most children will know what you are talking about. They know that their parents love them and sometimes show it by doing nice things for them. Chances are they are also familiar with the experience of feeling good about themselves after having done something kind for another.
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But confusion about this word "love" with its double meaning may still get in the way. So try using the phrase "care for" to mean treating someone with kindness by doing something thoughtful for that person. Keep reading.
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